IMAGO interviewed one of its most recent partners, Subash Shrestha, on his captivating documentations of Nepal and the Himalayan region.
When the 2015 earthquake in Nepal hit, Subash Shrestha rushed out and captured the dust over the Sitapaila horizon on his Android phone – sent to him by his father who was a migrant worker in the Middle-East. Since then, Shrestha grew his passion for photography, underwent training with a professional camera and began working for international media, covering politics, current events, life and culture in Nepal and the Himalayan region.
Eager for any challenge, he embeds himself into different situations from capturing Nepal’s living goddess and elections, to religious festivals and street markets. IMAGO spoke to Shrestha as he shares his journey and his motivations as a photographer.
“With the change of time, things around you also change. Always keep your shots organic.”
Can you first off tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a photographer — what first drew you to telling stories from the Himalayan region?
Nepal had held the three phase three-tier election and the new government had just started its governance when I first entered into the profession. Cameras and photos always fascinated me and that’s what brought me to photojournalism and photography. Photography was just my hobby since my childhood and I always was keen to capture the moments not only for records but also for memories which would last for infinity.
During the April 2015 earthquake I was in the first year of my intermediate level of studies. I was inside my home when the shaking started. I rushed out to an open space and I managed to capture it on my android phone which showed dust over the Sitapaila area, near the Swoyambhu Temple. That phone was sent to me by my father who went to the Middle-East as a migrant worker. Though I had the passion for taking photos which I captured with my cheap, less than 100 Euro phone at that time, my desire for a professional camera grew much stronger and years later I entered the profession after undergoing training.
Soon after getting my professional camera it lured me towards international exposure and showing the world my work. I started contributing to international media outlets – I usually cover politics, culture, festivals, daily life, mountaineering and other major news events on a daily basis. I am always prepared to go out in the field to take the shots, which is something I always crave for.
You cover politics in Nepal and focus also on cultural festivities like Kukkur Tihar and different aspects of Nepalese society. What are you aiming to show in your work and why do you think this sort of reportage is important?
Being a university student with Political Science and Mass Communication as a major subject, I feel like politics is a system that has supreme power to bring on positive change in a nation. Nepal is known for its political instability which has deep roots in the society and it happened to be something that has high volume in my coverage because people are more interested in politics and happenings. As general coverage is done on a daily basis, I tend to give a different aspect into politics: the body language of political leaders, such as their switch from smiling to grumpy faces, from cheerful to the most painful moments. Being a bridge for communication between the leaders and the public, I always look onto the non-verbal communication methods – a single gesture of leaders can build-up their image as well as bring them down.
There are far more other issues in Nepal which deserve honest coverage. Apart from shady politics there are festivals and cultural events that connect people from all levels establishing a distinctness of Nepal to different countries in the world – I think that knowing each other’s cultures and traditions enriches our knowledge of people.
Coming face to face with Nepal’s living Goddess-Kumari for example, and also following farmers working in fields or the markets of Kathmandu, can you tell us a few moments or interactions in your time photographing that have stood out to you the most?
“Interaction is a must”- I always have been following this rule for myself as well as the shots that I take. Getting close to the subject that is appearing on frame is something I always think about when I am on field. Nepal has the tradition of appointing Kumari the living goddesses, prayed and admired but getting a glimpse of Royal Kumari of Kathmandu is a rare occasion.
In order to get a perfect shot I always do my homework, I think of the shots that I can take or make as her chariot rolls out. For me interaction merely doesn’t mean talking to the subject all the time but also selecting the positions which would enable me to take the shots that really interact with the audience. People recognizing me on the basis of the pictures that I take whenever they see them is something that has always been special to me.
What is the most exciting part of your work and where do you find your inspirations for your projects?
Witnessing the moment that soon will be a memory and sometimes registering history – this is the privilege that always excites me. Sharing shots with a wide range of people from various levels and groups is something that always inspires me. I think of the proximity and interest of readers and viewers along with what they want to see in my photos. While doing so I always tend to deliver a different perspective and break the traditional narrative which they’re tired of. Readers and viewers have always been my inspiration and source of admiration.
What kinds of challenges have you faced as a photographer and how have you learned throughout the years?
Journalism is one of the least paid professions in the world especially for professionals in the field here in the Himalayan nations – living through the financial crisis is something that is hard to deal with. But there’s always a ray of hope over the horizon, one never should stop trying. Upon reaching that height there’s a bright future waiting to welcome you.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
With the change of time, things around you also change. Always keep your shots organic.
Interview by Sofia Bergmann.