McKenzie, 41, is an English commercial photographer who had come to disagree with Dr Johnson’s contention that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. He was seeking something inexact, something wild and remote, a human story set against a landscape. He had wanted to visit Ladakh since his first trip to India as a 19-year-old. When he arrived in its capital, Leh, after “an epic journey” across the Himalayan ranges, “it was dusk, a redness like Mars”. The next morning, he found “clarity and luminosity everywhere”.
If McKenzie had seen the light, so too, in quite another way, had Ladakh, now home to one of the world’s largest renewable-energy projects. In areas too removed for the national grid, but blessed with over 300 days of sunshine a year, communities were being exposed for the first time to continuous electricity. One evening, as power came and went in a hotel room in Leh, an engineer from a Delhi-based consultancy (“lying in his bed in his pale-blue socks”) told McKenzie about Shayok. It was a beautiful village, a pilot for the solar project, and about to be introduced to satellite television.
Pictured: A porter walks along the trail to the Lingshed monastery in the Zanskar region, “the ultimate remoteness”. McKenzie found the harsh daytime light could suit the mesmerising patterns and shadows of the landscape. He would shoot with flat settings for maximum detail, and then restore the contrast to the way his eye remembered it