Behind the Scenes

A Spring Photoshoot in The Mountains

I had been to this Tibetan Buddhist Monastery a few times before, and for some reason I just wasn't so interested in going inside this time.  But I knew that my friend Gregg, who was visiting us here in Nepal, had probably never been in one before, so I rallied myself and found the person who would let us inside.  It turns out we were just in time to observe a ceremony.  So we found a seat on the floor and for the next hour we were transported into a strange and beautiful architecture created entirely by the chanting of the monks.

Being that Gregg is a professional photographer, my wife and I had asked if he would be willing to go with me up into the Mustang region of Nepal to maybe do a few photographs for Burning Heart.  He agreed.  It was an opportunity to visit an extraordinary part of the world.  

One of our models, Sanish, is a brilliant, young, artist who runs a very popular coffee shop in the little mountain town of Jomsom.  He and his friend play music there in the evenings.  He sells his drawings, and the paintings of another local artist also fills the walls.  The place is a gem of creative contemporary expression in an austere and ancient region. 

The other model, Hishi, her family owns a very well-known guest house in Kagbeni.  Anyone who's ever been through this village knows exactly which one I'm talking about; they probably also know the particular meal the guest house is famous for.  I had expected to meet up with her there the evening before the shoot.  It wasn't until just before a Gregg and I left that she showed up; covered in beige dust.  She had just finished grinding barley into flour, almost a years worth, at the local mill, a water mill, on a stream that runs through the center of town.  

So yeah, this was our little group: Gregg, Sanish, Hishi, and myself.  We got started at a reasonable hour.  Just as the sun was rising over the Thorong La Pass, shining down into Kagbeni.

Both models had two outfits to manage.  Each had a pair of pants cut from cloth made with a cotton warp and stinging nettle weft.  This is a fabric we are working with, trying to create a sort of Himalayan denim.  Hishi wore a reversible jacket made with the same fabric.  

Cotton.  Stinging nettle.  Indigo.  Getting these three elements in balance to create, for instance, a pair of blue jeans, wearable ten-years.  For that would be something.

We took photos until the valley wind became intolerable around noon.  Which we anticipated.  It was such a fun time.  So many amazing locations.  Over lunch, on a lap top, we watched a slide show of all the images we had created together.  All of us marveling at times when a certain kind of visual harmony came together in such a way as to make us involuntarily gasp in delight.  

It's really amazing what a small group of people can do with a bit of intention, with a desire to create something beautiful —or rather, to allow the ever-present splendor inherent in life to be revealed.  Good stuff.

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