Sometimes it makes me sad that we are so finite in an infinite world.
So many of us have seem to have forgotten how to look, to see, to feel…because we have boxed ourselves in and made ourselves finite.
In 2012, I set out to discover a purest form of artistic inspiration and get lost in the Himalayas—I set out to photograph the beautiful people of Chitwan (Nepal).
Hidden amongst the incredible poverty and desolation, I found a dusty gem of a town alive with the memory of something truly magical—a place filled with joyful people that had turned what little they had into a life that mirrored something not so much different than our own, despite the desperately harsh conditions.
This place was rich in culture and history—a place of joy, pain, wisdom, laughter and love.
I tried capturing some of the most everyday human interactions and emotions in some of the hardest conditions and situations. The contrast of the vibrant souls and desolate environments in the photos is both heart-wrenching and beautiful.
But before you proceed, open a window. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Smell mother Earth. Feel the wind. Imagine it if you will. Feel the cries and the laughter of your own soul. Step out of your box, leave it all behind.
Step into a place where light and darkness go hand in hand. Open your eyes and feel.
Old wood burns the brightest.
The old mother carries on her back three days worth of firewood. She knows that the old wood burns the brightest, which is why she spent the whole day searching for the oldest branches to pick from the great forest that had been her backyard ever since she was a little girl.
As she passes the little girl at the border of the village playing with stones, she’s perhaps reminded of her younger self.
To her, they are not stones.
The old woman remembers the time when the stones were not stones—to her, they were perfect rounds of glass that reflected every bit of daylight, projecting colourful dreams into her smoke-and-dust filled mind. Her tiredness turns into a smile but soon disappears as she steps on to the pathway—she sees the younger mothers and the dreams and imagination of her children being sucked into the ground and burnt.
Two single-word questions float through her mind: Homeland? Wasteland?
She continues walking, not breaking her stride, the bundled wood threatening to break through her back, as she passes the girl who sits at the fence. She tries to think back to the day when the girl was not there, at the fence, smiling and playing with the children. She tries harder, but she cannot remember it. She looks harder at the girl, for this must surely be a trick of the light or the mind for she cannot see anything in front of the smile or behind the wire.
In front of the smile or behind the wire.
Her back is about to break down and she ponders no longer about the girl with the smile, she is almost home.
At her doorstep she notices the charlatan had done it again—he’s walking away with the grandest look on his face because he had convinced his little brother to finish his chores. She gives him a disconcerting look but the little one just dusts off his hands and walks towards the setting sun, unfazed—after all, all is fair when things are hard.
She walks into the hut, tired. With an aching back she lays down and closes her eyes, just for a while, before all the children come home and the duties call her again.
Author: Dimitri Zaik
Editors: Katarina Tavčar/Renée Picard
Photos: All original photos from Dimitri Zaik
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