I’m just back from a month in Nepal, photographing and visiting with friends of my wife. Now they are friends of mine. An amazing time with Nepali people and places.
Visiting the ancient Buddhist sites (but also some of the newly built or upgraded ones!) was one of the grab-me-by-the-shirt-collar facets of this experience — and certainly one I will naturally attempt to convey through photography. There was an intensity to the experience of being in these old and well-worn deep places that will of course be beyond anyone’s skills, as a photographer, writer, whatever. It was intense in a beyond-the-ordinary way of intensity, something that tingled my skin and rang my bones like a bell.
On this day we woke well before dawn and took a taxi to this ancient stupa, Swayambhu and we stayed from dawn past lunch. I can’t remember why we left at all. I didn’t want to leave any of these places, but there was always something pulling to the next thing we had to do.
Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve spent a good bit of my life and time exploring the resonances between physical spaces and emotional or psychic experiences — and that I explore the possibility of pulling some of that resonance through the two dimensional space of a photograph. What I felt in some of these places is beyond that possibility. I won’t pretend I can do anything like that — but time in these places in Nepal also showed me that my old sense of the power of a physical space or object was completely wrong and is now obsolete. So who knows…
Some other mind-blowing aspects of the experience I did capture: for one, the warmth of the people I now consider my friends. I did find a lot of their warmth came through in their smiles, in photos to be shared privately, not here.
Another poignant facet of this month was the experience of people shining through the brokenness of the world. Specifically in Nepal there are a lot of things physical and politically/socially structural that cause a lot of suffering. As many Republicans in the US want to “make the government so small it can drown in a bathtub,” the Nepalis experience what 20 years of a non-functioning, minimal, hands-off government does. There is no EPA, no traffic lights, insufficient electricity, running water, and garbage collection. And that sucks. The suffering from this is nothing to glamorize. The amazing thing is that the warmth and radiance of so many people shine through it. They are not buying assault rifles and hoarding cans, like many Americans in fear of decline. Actually already in a fallen-apart culture, many beautiful people shine through the brokenness like a bright light inside a cracked pot.
As a photographer, I found it trivially easy to document the brokenness. Conveying the shining-through radiance is another task altogether, and the coming weeks will tell if I’ve succeeded at that (beyond, as I said, private photos of friends.)
Stay tuned. Lots more Nepal to come.