About The Author

In 1971 at age eighteen, Laird left the United States and traveled overland, alone, from Europe through Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Nepal. In the next two years he made that trip six times. He then spent decades in Nepal living with different Himalayan peoples, studying their history and cultures. By the 1980’s he was regularly publishing Himalayan photography and reportage. He was the Nepal reporter for ASIAWEEK from 1991 to 2002 and then worked as a stringer reporter and photographer for both TIME and NEWSWEEK in Kathmandu.

Many of the world’s major magazines have published Laird’s work: National Geographic, The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Men’s Journal, Conde Nast Traveler, Outside, The New York Times, The Sunday Telegraph, Rolling Stone, Stern, The South China Morning Post, People, Le Figaro, Geo, The Asahi Shinbum, Elle, and El Messagaro amongst many others.

Grove Press published his debut non-fiction book in 2002, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa. Peter Matthiessen wrote the text for Laird’s first photography book, East of Lo Monthang and Ian Baker wrote the text for his second one The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple.

Laird’s first non-fiction book, Into Tibet had its origins in Mustang. While reporting from there he heard rumors about a covert CIA operation to arm Tibetans, based in Mustang during the 1960’s. Into Tibet was the result of ten years of research. In the 1990’s he spent months in the National Archives in Washington DC, combing through US Government documents about Tibet from the 1945-1952 period. Ultimately he filed Freedom of Information requests to obtain key classified documents. He then pursued a global hunt for those who had known Douglas Mackiernan, the first undercover CIA officer ever killed in the line of duty. The chase took him from Florida to Tibet and from India to Hawaii over the course of six years. He taped more than one hundred hours of interviews with more than two dozen primary sources, ranging from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to many former and current members of the CIA. Twenty years after publication of Laird’s book that CIA admitted the facts reported by Laird. At the time of publication of Laird’s book everything now reported on the CIA web site was vehemently denied. CIA still denies many aspects of this affair as reported by Laird.

Laird first met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1995, while reporting Into Tibet. Then in 1997, the Dalai Lama granted Laird a long series of interviews about Tibetan history: fifty hours over the course of three years. It took another six years to shape their dialogue into a history of Tibet entitled, The Story of Tibet: Conversations with The Dalai Lama. In 2001, Laird, and his wife, Jann Fenner, bought a home in the United States and began to spend time there, to enable Laird’s continuing research on the book. In 2005 as Laird was writing The Story of Tibet, Hurricane Katrina forced a halt. Laird picked up his camera once again, and worked to document the aftermath of that disaster for leading publications. In 2006, The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai was first published and then was ultimately published in 14 language editions, globally.

Between conversations with the Dalai Lama, in India, Laird managed to continue traveling in Tibet. At one point when Laird asked his Holiness about how he first heard about the bodhisattva Chenrizi the Dalai Lama said that before he could read or write he was looking at a mural one day, and a monk had told him the story of how Chenrizi had become the protector of Tibet. In this way Laird saw that the murals of Tibet were critical touchstones in the preservation of many aspects of Tibetan history and religion. Starting in 2002 he began to create life size images of whole Tibetan wall murals. For this he developed unique digital methods and tools. He ultimately created high resolution, life size, images of more than 300 Tibetan murals, from all over the Tibetan Plateau. Laird’s image of a 10×10 ft mural is that same size. This led to the production of what is considered the seminal book on the subject, Murals of Tibet, TASCHEN, 2018, as well as multiple museum exhibitions of fine art prints of these images. His Holiness the Dalai Lama, described this effort as “important work” and to support it agreed to sign all 998 copies of Murals of Tibet.

Thomas Laird now divides his time between Asia and New Orleans. He is working on a number of projects with the high resolution image archive of Tibetan murals, including fine art exhibitions; projection mapped immersive shows, and a VR project.