John Wehrheim

Producer, Cinematographer, Writer, Photographer

A native of Chicago now living on Kauai, John moved to Hawaii in 1970 on assignment for the Sierra Club.
From 1972 to 1974 he worked in the Himalayas for the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives on the project Tibetans without Tibet documenting Tibetan villagers from the remote borderlands of Dolpo, Nepal to the refugee settlements of India. John’s initial experience with the Bhutanese was in 1974 at the Dalai Lama’s first Kalachakra initiation at Bodh Gaya, India.  Hundreds of thousands of Himalayan Buddhists poured into the temple complex and surrounding towns and villages—including a large contingent from Bhutan.

Though the Bhutanese looked to be the same people with similar features, dress and customs, their spirit and manner were unlike their somber cousins from the Tibetan diaspora. They arrived in their wildly colorful kira and gho, laughing, chewing betel nut, singing, dancing and drinking. Never conquered, never colonized, confident and secure in their culture and country, the Bhutanese instinctively believed in a Buddhism that taught suffering should be minimized and that the greatest gift in life is a precious human body to be honored and enjoyed. Thus began John’s intrigue and fascination with the Bhutanese culture and people that would lead him to Bhutan eighteen years later.

In 1991 John was offered a consulting contract to go to Bhutan as a hydropower engineer. And so his avocation of photographing, filming and writing about Bhutan began, a dream he had held since Bodh Gaya in 1974.  

John has published and exhibited many stages and excerpts of the Bhutan work. Serindia printed his book Bhutan Hidden Lands of Happiness in 2008, a geographical and cultural passage through this breathtaking and isolated country featuring 108 black & white photographic images narrated with stories, journal entries, folklore, dharma teachings and oral history that creates a portal across centuries and an intimate view of daily life far from the tourists’ beaten path. 

John’s feature documentary film Bhutan: Taking the Middle Path to Happiness” won two Emmy Awards for Best Music and Best History/Culture 2010.


Follow theese links to find more:


Glædens skjulte land

Hidden Land of Happiness

Fotografier af John Wehrheim
En geografisk og kulturel rejse fra yak-nomaderne langs med den tibetanske grænse til risområderne i det centrale Bhutan. Fotografierne indkapsler skarpt stemninger og øjeblikke fra distrikter rundt om i landet. Rejsen ender i Thimphu med billeder fra moderne natklubber og gadeliv.

Wehrheims fotografier forsøger poetisk at indfange den mangfoldighed af kulturelle forskelle, som netop kendetegner indbyggerne i det lille kongedømme skjult i Himalaya.

Ethnographic Exhibitions | Ditte Marie Seeberg | Photos & Webdesign: Jens Kirkeby, Digital Nature
Lav din egen hjemmeside med