Like much of his work, the photos have both an artistic and a political element at their core. In one way, they are expressions of his admiration for the Tibetans and their traditional way of life, which he sees as an untarnished expression of the ideals of nonviolence and brotherhood he aspires to in his own life. At the same time, some of the photographs capture the dislocation and angst experienced by Tibetans after their country fell under Chinese control.
"This is my family," he says of the Tibetans in the black-and-white photographs. "The photos express solidarity with what they've tried to achieve."
While many Westerners briefly embrace Eastern religions and philosophy, much as the Beatles did at the height of their fame, Gere's involvement with Tibetan Buddhism is a lifelong commitment. It has shaped him since his mid-20s, when he found himself searching for a worldview more compatible with his own sentiments. There was a clash between his image - a Hollywood hotshot playing roles that emphasized his raw appeal - and the reality of a fairly subdued young man seeking to make sense of the world.
"I think I had an instinct very early on as a teenager, or even before, that things were not as they appeared, and to not trust the surface of things," Gere says of the process that brought him to Buddhism. "I am not a totally different human being pre- and post-Buddhism. I have gained some control over hatred and anger - not totally, but some control. My patience has risen, the ability to empathize has risen - no question of that - but I'm not a different human being."
There would seem to be a contradiction between his core Buddhist belief that the self and all of its manifestations are an illusion and the traditional Hollywood preoccupation with money, status, and perpetual youth. Gere doesn't buy this. He also rejects the idea that Buddhism is altering the way he works.
"I don't think I'm making different choices about movies," he says. "I read a script, and I fall in love with it or I don't. On a mysterious level, I fall in love with the story. Creativity comes from falling in love. And then I ask, 'Well, is this dangerous to people, is it helpful, is it worth putting a year of my life, two years of my life, into this thing?' Then I can make some rational decisions. That's my life with art. And nothing else gets in the way of that."
Gregory Katz is a writer based in London. His work has also appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Condé Nast Traveler.