For this exercise I also shot a busy area of Kathmandu. I selected a TLR medium format camera as I had such success using this for the earlier “standard focal length” exercise in this module. I find a TLR camera with a waist level viewfinder affords a certain subtlety and stealth when shooting people in public places. It is unobtrusive, people can recognise it and if they do it is often a topic of discussion since these cameras are rarely seen these days. I asked a couple of people for portraits and for the rest I shot subtly and on the move. I chose to walk around Boudhanath stupa an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. It was extremely crowded but I could sense some order in the activity, there being layers of different types of people walking around the stupa – tourists, pilgrims, police, street vendors, shop owners and beggars. To help convey the colour and activity I chose medium format Velvia, a slide film known for its vivid colours and exceptional level of detail particularly in 120mm.
The above shot was taken on the move – unfortunately the TLR camera I was using is prone to light leaks and double exposures. The band of overexposed film on the right is a double exposure from not advancing the film far enough due to a faulty film counter. However I still love the colour and composition, and with the other shots in this small series conveys something of the varied activity going on at the location.
This shot was taken slightly later as is noticeable from the changing light in the frame. I also observed the location served as a meeting spot for local people, or just a place for individuals to sit in quiet contemplation. Though it is crowded with people and nearly always busy, it is a reminder of the spiritual nature of the location for many people.
For the last shot, I asked permission from an old lady sat just beneath the stupa in shadow. I surmised that she may have been a pilgrim as is evident from her clothes and religious beads in hand. I noticed that she too was sat alone and looked quite sad in her contemplation. Once I had taken the shot she did gesture and try to talk to me but unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from finding out more about her. The TLR camera here cropped for me due to the film counter problems, but I actually like how it is cropped so let’s call it a happy accident!
Boudhanath is an extremely crowded and often stressful place, but this exercise enabled me to notice the people away from the tourists and internet cafes, and my images show the diversity of people present there everyday. I hope that this activity continues after the devastating earthquake last month, as it is an important place not just for pilgrims but also for the local people in Kathmandu.