Nepal calls me back again and again. A country that nurtures 126 subcultures and 127 languages, Nepal offers an intriguing array of subjects for black-and-white photography. Focusing mostly on people, this series of monochrome photographs covers a range from life in small villages in the Annapurna Mountains to urban life in the ancient historic district of Bhaktapur.
The old section of Bhaktapur is a complex and ancient city where the predominant ethnic group is Newar. Entering through the gates of the wall that surrounds the old city is like stepping backward into history. This designated cultural heritage district features buildings, temples and pagodas dating back hundreds of years. Beyond these structures is a maze of narrow streets and narrower alleys where the people live. Stores and open-air markets provide the necessities of daily life. Community wells provide water for the homes. The sound of groups performing ancient Hindu chants enliven the streets in early morning and evening. Therein lies the spirit of what I consider to be true Bhaktapur. This is the focus of one section of my series.
The next section of my series is a portrait of Khokana village in Kathmandu Valley, where the largest ethnic group is Newar. On my first visit, a half day of wandering the streets and photographing the people there completely captured my photographer’s imagination; I returned annually thereafter. Khokana has been calling me.
Far away, both culturally and geographically, lie the villages in the foothills of the Annapurna Mountains. These villages, in some instances home to only a few hundred families, are accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicle but some are accessible only on foot. The ethnic groups residing in the villages in this series are primarily Newar and Gurung. The old stone houses have been passed down from generation to generation for a hundred years or more. Typically, they have no running water and only some have electricity. The footpaths winding through the villages are too narrow for cars and, in the absence of traffic, the villages are pleasantly quiet both day and night.
Kathmandu resides at the opposite end of the spectrum, a large urban city with bustling crowds and traffic. The ancient city center, Durbar Square, survives and adheres to a slower, simpler way of life such as the early-morning open-air Asan market. Kathmandu is ethnically diverse with the main groups being Brahman-Hill, Newar, Chhetree, Tamang and Magar.
These four widely diverse areas of Nepal come together for me as a photographer through the medium of the people. My goal in this series is to create a collective portrait, with many individual images woven into a whole piece with various cultural elements. Nepal is calling me back.