Life is crazy. One day you're sitting at home, bored, wondering what to do with your life, wondering whether your photos will ever make a difference to this world. The next you're getting ready for the biggest adventure of your life.
I’m about to embark on an amazing journey to Nepal. This is something I’ve been working on for many months, and it’s such a huge project that it’s taken me quite a long time to put everything together.
My fascination for this country began in 2014, I was working for an organisation in London as a photographer, and one of the events I was covering was all about Nepal. I began talking to their office in Kathmandu about potentially coming over and doing some work there, but then things fell through, and after the big earthquakes of 2015 there was no more budget for the projects I had in mind, so I put the idea aside for a while.
Fast-forward a couple of years, and I stumble across what is now my all-time favourite photography book: 100 days in Tibet by York Hovest, published by National Geographic.
The first time I saw this book in the book store, I spent a good hour going through the pages, and was just completely blown away by the beauty of that work.
Suddenly, the thoughts of Nepal came racing back into my head. I was so inspired by York’s book that I decided I wanted to go on an adventure of my own.
I spent some time thinking about what I could do - I wanted a truly authentic experience, I wanted to capture images that nobody else has, tell stories that nobody has ever heard, and I wanted to completely lose myself in something way bigger than me.
At that time I was living in Rome, working full-time as a fashion photographer. I have nothing against it, but the more I worked there, the more I was falling out of love with photography. Meaningless pictures of fake people, fake clothes, fake locations and fake emotions…I was completely off path.
I got back in touch with my old organisation in London, and talked to them about some ideas I had, but unfortunately everyone I knew there had left their positions, so I was basically starting brand new conversations with people who had no idea who I was. Within a couple of emails, I understood it wasn’t going to work. As soon as I hear people talking about “low-budget” I just turn the other way. Not because I’m a selfish prick, but because life isn’t about “budgets”. For the record, I never talked about money, “a low budget” was just their natural response.
So I began researching other organisations, both local to Nepal and international. Everyone was really excited about the project I had in mind, but somehow on my end it just didn’t feel right. I got the impression they didn’t REALLY get it. Until I got in touch with an organisation that has offices in Nepal, as well as other countries, with whom I immediately clicked, and seemed really interested in all of this. And most importantly, never mentioned the words “low” or “budget”.
We exchanged something like 20 to 30 emails, bouncing ideas off each other of what we could do, then spent a few hours on Skype just to speed up communication. The more we talked, the more excited we all got - the project was starting to take shape, and it was so much bigger than anything I could’ve thought of on my own.
I will go into more detail over the next few posts, but the outline is this: I will be spending about a month and a half in Nepal, staying with families in Kathmandu and the rural areas and farms, documenting everyday life. I will then go trekking in the Himalayas for 10 days, just me and a guide, going on the less travelled routes, staying in the villages and creating a short film for this small community organisation, to help them get exposure and boost sales.
I will then return to Kathmandu, where the big part of the project starts.
Not many people talk about this, but a big problems in Nepal is child trafficking. This is something I will cover better in another post, but the main occupation of the organisation I’m working with is rescuing children from trafficking, helping them reintegrate into their families and providing financial support until they are old enough to support themselves.
I’ll be spending time in these impoverished rural areas of Nepal, living with some of the families affected, learning about the human side of such a horrible thing, and documenting through video and photos what all this really means.
The goal is to raise awareness around the world, for people to understand that, although these horrible things do happen, there is hope, and to better comprehend why these atrocities happen, and what can be done to prevent them from happening in the future.
The photos will be used to create a book and a photo exhibition, but more on this later.
So, here I am, 2 month before departure, letting you in on this incredible journey. The reason why I want to bring you along from the very preparation is because these sort of things don’t just happen, there is so much work that goes into something like this, and a lot of it comes down to perseverance, passion, and trial and error.
I will show you what to pack, what equipment you’ll need to buy for trekking in the Himalayas, what vaccinations you need, what photo and video gear I’ll be bringing, and through each video I hope to make you just as passionate as I am about this project, and hopefully it will inspire you to follow your dreams, and create your own project, and maybe you’ll be able to use some of the tips to help you out with the planning, because frankly I think that’s one of the hardest parts.
The creative industry often clashes with “normal” institutions, we don’t always think alike, and we are driven by passion rather than money and rationality. But it’s important to understand how to combine the two things, and how to sell your ideas in such a way that would make anyone passionate about it, and that we should never fear rejection, because all you need is one ‘yes’, and suddenly the snowball starts rolling, and before you know it there are a bunch of people on board, all just as passionate, helping each-other succeed.
I’d also like to mention that nobody’s getting paid for any of this. Everything is self-funded: from the flights, to accommodation and food. At one point we need to separate a job from work. A job pays the bills, but our work is what truly matters. We can’t just sit and wait for someone to come knocking at our door with a project like this. We need to initiate it, we need to become so good at it that people will be calling us to get on board, not the other way around. And frankly, as photographers, we have an amazing power to tell stories that transcend language and culture. A photo can communicate with anyone. We can tell stories of people who would otherwise be completely invisible. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars and fly to the other side of the world, there are issues all around us, there are stories waiting to be told. So my suggestion is very simple. Start. Doesn’t matter where. Just start. And then never stop. If that’s your dream, nobody is stopping you other than self-doubt.
I understand that many of you are concerned about the financial aspect of something like this, but keep in mind that investing is yourself is the best thing you can do. Instead of buying a new camera or a new lens you don’t need, spend that money on yourself. Sooner or later it will pay off. Because if you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either.