Each piece of fabric unwittingly holds a piece of the very story of civilization,
and the part of the world that gave it life.
— Issey Miyake
My fascination with textiles started with a random encounter while in Varanasi, India during the communal riots of 1972. Curfew had stranded a group of us, businessmen and journalists, in a hotel bar. Nasrudeen, a small man with a huge capacity for drink, persuaded me to travel with him to his home in Bhadohi, a village of carpet weavers.
In the predawn light we set out along a crowded road, dusty from ages of the shuffling feet of men, children, women, camels and elephants carrying cargos of richly-colored wool yarn and carpets.
Bhadohi turned out to be a magic place, and the first stop on a road that ultimately led me to 24 countries and 40 years of photographing a subject that continues to draw me in.
Like DNA in the threads that form their warp and weft, textiles embody stories about culture, politics, innovation, intrigue, greed, fortunes, and environmental collapse. A single piece of cloth can express light and movement, texture and volume, even emotion. It can be a projection of self or obfuscation: a disguise behind which to mislead the viewer. Cloth has the power to define and transform our impression of another human being.