De gauche à droite : Pema, Yvan, Danielle, Olivier, Diskit et Motup.
De gauche à droite : Pema, Yvan, Danielle, Olivier, Diskit et Motup.

Danielle & Olivier Föllmi, a way of life, a shared journey

  •  After a childhood spent in Salvador and Central America, Danielle Föllmi arrived in France at the age of 17 to study medicine. She became a doctor-anaesthetist and worked in this field on three continents. A researcher permanently seeking for the values and meaning inherent in each culture, she is responsible for the intellectual and literary approach of the Wisdoms of Humanity project.
  • A photographer-writer and lecturer, award-winner of many international prizes, Olivier Föllmi owes his reputation to his magnificent landscapes and portraits that capture the soul of human beings. A longstanding reference photographer for all Himalayan countries, he now pays tribute to the beauty of Humanity through the “Wisdoms of Humanity” project.

The paths of Danielle Pons & Olivier Föllmi were destined to cross: they did not know it, but the Himalayan gods had weaved, stitch after stitch, a unique destiny.

 7 key dates

•       In 1981, Danielle & Olivier reached Zanskar in the heart of winter. The result of this journey out of the world was the publication in 1983 of Deux Hivers au Zanskar (Two Winters in Zanskar). Thanks to their adventure, in 1982 they were awarded the Grand Prix of the International Slideshow Festival of Châtel, and, in 1983, the Grand Prix of the Adventure Film Festival of Royan for the multiscreen projection documentary: Zanskar d’hiver et d’aujourd’hui (Zanskar in winter and today).

•       In 1984, Olivier & Danielle married and then set off to discover China and Tibet before reaching Zanskar. Signes – Espaces (Signs – Spaces), a first book of photos, was then published. The couple committed themselves to the Tibetan cause with the Dalai-Lama and testified to the fate of occupied Tibet.

•       In 1989, they left Zanskar isolated by snow with Motup and Diskit, two children that they enrolled in school. Together they walked for twelve days on the Frozen River, risking their lives. The couple would then follow up the entire schooling of the two children that they considered as their own. The result of this adventure, a World Press Photo award-winner, was: Le Fleuve Gelé (The Frozen River), Caravane pour une École (Caravan for a School), and L’École au Bout du Fleuve (The School at the other end of the River). Olivier created a multi-image show with nine projectors, Le Fleuve Gelé, that was awarded the Grand Prix of the 14th Adventure Film Festival and the Photo-Reporter Prize. He became a lecturer with “Connaissance du Monde”, while Danielle specialised in anesthetisation and resuscitation. They would then publish one book a year.

•       In 1991-1992, Danielle & Olivier spent two years in India with the exiled Tibetan community that, in 1992, was to entrust them with the adoption of two children: Yvan Tharpa Tsering (5 years) and Léonore Pema Yangdon (4 years), who returned to live with them in Haute-Savoie. Danielle worked on the organisation of the basic health requirements of the refugee Tibetan population in the north of India. On their return to Europe, they created the association HOPE.

•       Summer 2000: They were asked to be the official photographers of the Dalai-Lama during his stay in France. The year after, they were awarded the Vermeille medal of honour by the “Société d’Encouragement au Progrès” (Society for the Encouragement of Progress) at the Palais du Luxembourg, Paris.

•       2002: Creation of the Éditions Föllmi, in Annecy, in order to develop their activity. Publication by the Éditions de La Martinière of Himalaya Bouddhiste (Buddhist Himalayas) written with Matthieu Ricard and with the collaboration of nineteen Himalayan specialists. This was to be the couple’s first best seller.

•       2003 (-2010): Publication of Offrandes, 365 pensées de Maîtres bouddhistes (Offerings, 365 thoughts of Buddhist Teachers), the first volume in the “Sagesses de l’Humanité” (Wisdoms of Humanity) collection, dedicated to the wisdoms of the world. This book was to have a phenomenal success with more than 300 000 copies sold. At the same time, the collection “Hommage” (Homage) was born, also published by the Editions de La Martinière, at a rhythm of one book a year.