Nepal Photo Project: 35 Asian photographers, one Instagram account

  • Anubhuti Matta, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 11, 2015 16:54 IST

* Sundaya Tamang, 72, whispers to her cow, who lies buried in rubble, her neck broken. All 150 houses in this village of Phalame in Nepal have been levelled. (Photo: Shikhar Bhattarai via Nepa Photo Project)

* Facing a row of pyres, brothers Iman and Isan Gurung, aged 16 and 14, have their heads shaved at Aryaghat in Pashupathinath. They have lost their home and their mother. (Photo: Sagar Chhhtri via Nepal Photo Project)

* Sunita Gewali, 35, a homemaker and mother of one, hands over her small savings to her brother, a photographer, asking if he can give it to a relief camp on his way to work. (Photo: Prashant Vishwanathan via Nepal Photo Project)

These are some of the moments captured by a group of 35 professional photographers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh and posted on the Instagram feed NepalPhotoProject (NPP).

The account went live on April 26, a day after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan nation.

An initiative by Nayantara Kakshapati, 33, Bhushan Shilpakar, 35, Sagar Chhetri, 24, and Kishor Sharma, 33, who run a platform for budding photographers called Photo.Circle in Kathmandu, and professional photographer Sumit Dayal, 33, also from Nepal, the account was meant as a platform to aggregate critical and accurate information about the earthquake and its aftermath.

What it has also created is a moving and evocative account of one of the worst natural disasters in recent times, putting human faces to the numbers.

"When the quake hit, we thought this would be a good way to put out useful and credible information from people we know and trust on the ground, all under one banner," says Delhi-based freelance writer Tara Bedi, 26, who is currently curating and editing all posts on NPP.

With thousands of followers, Bedi knows that NPP is different from other handles and Facebook pages.
"'Putting such a personal face on this tragedy' was one of the comments on a picture," says Bedi. "This gives us an idea of how much our followers appreciate our work."

In times like this, the visual medium becomes more important than words, Chhetri adds. "It was this realisation that prompted us to set up the Instagram account. It is our job to take reliable pictures and we wanted those images to become a medium for people to reach out and help."

Another factor was the unlimited space.

"Instagram allows personal followers to sift through your images, providing a larger platform for the pictures to become visible," says Prashant Vishwanathan, 33, a photojournalist from Delhi who has been reporting from Kirtinagar, Sindhupalchowk, Kathmandu and Lalitpur, all areas devastated by the quake. "Newspapers and other news media can carry very few photos as compared to social media."

It was Vishwanathan who took the photograph of Sundaya Tamang and her cow, for global anti-poverty organisation ActionAid. "The cow used to give the family 7 litres of milk a day. A lot of livestock has been injured and lost too, and that is something many of us don't consider," he says.

From New Baneshwor in Kathmandu, 28-year-old Nepalese photographer Shikhar Bhattarai posted a picture of a 95-year-old grandmother with a timeless smile on her face, discussing the last great temblor in Nepal with a relief worker - the 8-magnitude quake that also levelled homes and claimed thousands, in 1934.

"There is no theme, just a mission to share, connect and keep the focus on the victims in Nepal," says Bhattarai.

"What we are beginning to realise is that it is not just the strength of the images that get responses, it is the stories they communicate," says Bedi.

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