After the Quake: A country’s history preserved in family photos

A digital collection of over 26,000 photos from across the country are archived at the Nepal Picture Library (NPL).

Written by Ruhi Bhasin | Mumbai | Published:May 12, 2015 1:18 am
Nepal earthquake, Nepal, Nepal quake, Nepal news, earthquake, Nepal Picture Library, NPL, indian express news, indian express Images from the city of Patan taken before and after the earthquake. (Express hoto by: Sagar Chhetri)

These photos, till a while ago, were treasured memories of families in Nepal. Soon they could assume greater significance as the last series of photos of the country before it was hit by a devastating earthquake on April 25.

A digital collection of over 26,000 photos from across the country are archived at the Nepal Picture Library (NPL). They tell stories of families, communities and the evolution of photography over the years.

Special in the collection are 1,300 prints and negatives from the personal collection of Juju Bhai Dhakhwa, a Bollywood fan well known in Nepal. Another contributor is Bidhan Ratna Yami, an engineer residing in Bhurunkhel. His photos include family portraits and a series of images from his mother’s funeral.

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“The concept of starting something like this was because there was no repository for photographs. The aim was to archive photos of the common person. Not of anyone or anything famous,” said Nayan Tara Gurung Kakshapati, a co-founder of the NPL.

“In the last 10 years there has been a lot of political transformation leading to more inclusive governance. We also want to capture that through these photos,” she adds.

The library first started out as a collection of family photos in 2011.

Nepal earthquake, Nepal, Nepal quake, Nepal news, earthquake, Nepal Picture Library, NPL, indian express news, indian express“We wanted to document an inclusive history of the people of Nepal by encouraging individuals and families to contribute their photographs and stories,” Kakshapati says.

While the initial photos were only contributed by families in Kathmandu, photos slowly started coming in from other areas too. “We started to reach out to studios as people who didn’t have cameras would go there to get their photos taken,” says Kakshapati. The people and their photos became a means of telling stories of a particular time or community.

The archive also has photos of important historical places like the Palace before the destruction.

Seven photographers have been working with the library on a dedicated basis since 2011. While helping with the relief efforts, many of them are also photographing the changing landscape of Nepal, Kakshapati says.

The library’s co-founder hopes that as the collection grows, these photos can be used for research. “These photos can tell a lot of stories of migration, gender issues and can be used for research. We are working towards this,” she says.

“Most people react to these photos with a sense of nostalgia. They are reminded of their own stories and therefore want to contribute”.

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