Courtesy of the amazing Dinadi team in Kathmandu, here I am again back in Nepal working with fashion photography, re-connecting with old friends, and making new ones. I love that my job gives me the opportunity to meet extraordinary people from all over, people who are passionate about life, excited about the world around them and genuinely working hard to bring change into the lives of people who have been dealt a pretty rough hand.
Late last year I took my first trip to Nepal helping with the Kickstarter launch of Dinadi’s first beautiful handmade product line – My first trip to Nepal. I was so warmly welcomed, and inspired by this group of people, that when they asked if I was interested in coming back this year to photograph the new 2018/19 range of Dinadi products I jumped at the chance. Dinadi founders Preston & Mirjam have created not only a successful startup with beautiful products, but to see the joy and hear the laughter around the office when the knitting groups come in for their weekly meetings shows just how successfully they are impacting the lives of their employees also.
We had a lot to accomplish in my short stay, and the day that I was most looking forward to, as well as the day that most terrified me, was far and away the planned shoot in Durbar Square. I was excited by the talented and amazing models we had, the beautiful Dinadi products and the opportunity to photograph them in the iconic, and stunning Durbar Square. This is a place that you see in travel brochures and is on everyone’s must see list as they pass through Kathmandu. History, beauty, architecture, and culture. Every stone feels ancient and full of stories. The skyline of historic temples creates an aura to the place that almost takes your breath away.
I was slightly terrified by the enormity of the task ahead. Matt, Heidi & Eefje – our models for the campaign, were amazing to work with, and let us be honest, people like this make a photographers job ridiculously easy! The location while complex and busy is so photogenic that I feel I could simply throw my camera in the air and it would come down with a series of beautiful images! As I sat with my coffee at 6am, watching the preparations, my mind swimming with the day’s complexities of how to merge everything together? Beautiful western models, encapsulated in a rich environment soaked in Nepalese culture and history with the handmade Dinadi products tasked with coming out of the day as the heroes.
Once we arrived on location, we got straight into it. I had made the decision that without an assistant and due to the busyness of our location, it would be best to use available light wherever possible. Fashion photography generally needs a more stylised feel. I decided a silver reflector would add a bit of direction and pop to the images to give us this. Without an assistant, I had the opportunity to pass on a working knowledge of reflector holding to any one willing. By the end of the day, almost everyone in the Dinadi team had become proficient at bouncing that available light right into the places I needed it. A skill that I had mastered back in my assisting days in Australia. All though my skills took me 4-5 years to perfect!
The day was busy, large amounts of passing foot traffic, motorbikes and stores opening all around us. The perfectly overcast morning, by 9 am, had turned into a bright sunny day. This further complicated my job, as now I had to throw the challenges of bright sun and deep shadow into the mix. Constantly working the location, picking my backgrounds as we moved from one model and outfit to the next.
I love location work, constantly searching for that right spot for every image. Hunting for a place that makes the subject stand out and yet fit in at the same time. No sooner do I settle on a setup and start photographing and already my mind is racing to what’s next. Surveying colours, lighting challenges, textures, who to photographed and what products are we highlighting.
It’s like a mental circus of juggling clowns going on in my head! It’s mentally exhausting, but the thrill of looking at the little 2-inch screen keeps me going. Looking on the back of my camera, seeing something that resembles the images I had visualised in my mind. This is what boosts me into the next shot. Ready for the clowns to move to the tightrope . . . .
I think this is partly what draws me into photography and keeps me wanting more. It’s like hunting, the thrill of the chase. Knowing there is something bigger, better, more challenging out there. And if I can just find it, with all the little details fitting together, technically, physically, mentally. Then I will catch it. But there will be something else. Always something else. Something bigger, something better, something more beautiful, something even more perfect.
Overall, the shoot went off wonderfully well. A day like this can only happen with a wonderful team, and that is what I had. The models and the Dinadi team worked tirelessly, holding things, watching gear, moving things. Having a team to assist me and the models. Fixing makeup, helping the models change behind sheets – this is what makes a successful shoot!
Now, the Buffalo incident that I alluded to earlier……
We had been waiting all morning for the right conditions to photograph Eefje in front of these beautiful blue wood doors. The sun didn’t quite cooperate, but a strategically held blanket helped to cut off most of the direct sun. Adding a low reflector bounced that beautiful light back up onto Eefje, creating some amazing catchlights in her eyes. That fashion photography look we were after.
By this stage, we had been on location for 4-5 hours and were ready to start winding up for the day. As we started shooting again, we hear yelling. Rhythmic yelling getting louder and closer. We pause to see what the commotion is about. Here comes 15-20 Nepalese men dragging a dead, headless water buffalo towards us. This is interesting. I like things like this.
One of the joys of location photography, and especially working in different cultures, is the occurrence of events that would just never happen back home. As we watched, and photographed, these men trailing a bloody path along the pavement, they proceeded to deposit the buffalo’s body about a meter from where we are photographing Eefje. Not sure quite what is happening, we watch on in amazement (and a little queasiness) as the head is roughly deposited by the body and a blow torch is fired up to start to burn the hair of the carcass.
So here we are in the middle of a fashion shoot, in Kathmandu, watching a burning carcass of a huge water buffalo. As we photograph this interesting sight, we are in turn photographed. The men who had dragged in this beast begin photographing us on their phones. They find us entertaining as we continue to finish our last set of images. The somewhat comical scene surrounding me made me chuckle as I turned back to finish the fashion photography. I had to work rapidly before the smell of burning hair and flesh became too strong to bear any longer.
It’s always exciting to finish a day like this and get home to look at the images properly. The images have a long way to go before they are ready to be used. In the fall they will promote the next line of Dinadi products. I am looking forward to seeing them in use and can’t wait to be able to share them with you!
Till next time….