Shadows of Shangri La: Nepal in Photographs, 1975-2011

Young boy at home, Kermi village. Humla district, 2010
Young boy at home, Kermi village, Humla district, 2010. PM 2015.2.26.44

I arrived in Nepal in 1975, a twenty-year-old Peace Corps volunteer fresh out of college: optimistic, energized, curious, eager to learn a new language, to walk the narrow alleyways of Kathmandu's old neighborhoods, and to hike endlessly through the foothills and high mountains of the Himalayas. Along with my duties as a water systems overseer, I had incredible freedom and time to explore this new world of unknowns. In Nepal, I discovered, I was everyone's bhai, their younger brother.

Thirty-five years later, in 2010, I was at a teashop in Yalbang, Humla, a few days' walk from the Tibet border and the motorway to Mt. Kailash. The young woman who prepared tea and dinner for all who passed by on the trail to the Tibet border, and who cared for her elderly father, addressed me respectfully as bhaje, grandfather. I was now grey haired, and the lines of age across my face matched those that marked her ailing father, who lay on a cot next to me.

Nepal, then and now. Through the eyes of youth and the eyes of a grandfather.

How do we read these images from a black-and-white Kingdom of Nepal over thirty-five years ago? Nepal in the 1970s was simple, smaller, more finite than today. To me it seemed full of possibility. I see now that one photographs the present so that the future will know what the past looked like.

 

All photos in this exhibition are Copyright 2014 Kevin Bubriski. This online exhibition is based upon the book by Kevin Bubriski, Nepal: 1975-2011, Santa Fe, NM: Peabody Museum Press and Radius Books, 2014.