The First Nepali Photographer in the United States: I’ve just found out that’s me.
|Photo by: Ang Kami Sherpa|
On December 2nd, 2012, I was one of ten people who received an award, for an achievement, by the US Nepal Media Center. The event took place at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens. My award, which was presented to me by Pradeep Thapa Magar, Editor-in-Chief of USNepalOnline.com, was for being the first Nepali photographer in the United States. Until now, I had no idea that I was the first one. I felt humbled to be receiving such an honor.
Out of curiosity, I went looking on the Internet, where I didn’t find anyone else listed as the first Nepali photographer in America. But I did find the man with the distinction of being the first Nepali photographer in Nepal. His name was Dambar Shamsher, and he lived between 1858 and 1922. He apparently learned photography in the 1870s from photographers who had been sent from the firm Bourne and Shepherd in India to photograph Nepal. As for me, I learned photography 100 years later, in the 1970s, from the American artist and writer Charles Henri Ford.
As some of you know, I was born in the village of Phakhel, Makawanpur District in Nepal, in 1953. While I was working at the Panorama Hotel in Kathmandu in 1972, I met Charles Henri Ford while serving him breakfast in the hotel dining room. Charles ended up spending several years in Kathmandu and he offered me a job, which I accepted. He taught me a great many things, and through his influence I discovered that I had an appreciation for art and photography. When Charles decided to return to New York in 1974, he brought me along.
|Certificate of Honor I received as First Nepali Photographer in US by US Nepal Media Center|
It was Charles who gave me my first camera and encouraged me to take photographs. I loved taking pictures, and my camera became my constant companion whenever I attended a cultural event or an interesting party. The 1970s was a very interesting and exciting period in New York, and I photographed many artists, writers, musicians and actors, people I was privileged to meet, thanks to Charles and the fact that he was someone who knew all of the most influential members of the art world in the United States.
When I traveled to other countries while working with Charles, I took many photographs in those places as well. And it was my great joy to collaborate with him on book projects and collages, which we made together using his poetry and my photographs. I was always very happy when other people seemed to enjoy looking at the photographs I took.
During the years when I was most active with my camera, I never could have imagined in a thousand years that one day I would be receiving an honor such as this. I made photographs purely for the fun and enjoyment of doing it, and over the years my collection grew and grew. Charles’s death in 2002 was a big loss for me personally and for the art world at large, and I continue to act as the steward of all of his work, which galleries regularly want to exhibit.
|Speaking few words after receiving the honor as 1st Nepalese Photographer in US. Photo by: Ang Kami Sherpa|
In 2011, there was an exhibit of some of the work that Charles and I made together at the Turtle Point Press gallery/office. I had sent Pradeep Thapa an invitation to the opening and he attended. That evening, he conducted an interview with me, about my work, for the Nepalese media. I certainly never expected him to consider me for an award, but this acknowledgement of my work by the Nepalese community is a great privilege for me. And it has also inspired me to start taking my camera along with me once again.
Please click the link below to view Photographs taken by me:
|Group Picture, 5th Anniversary celebration of US Nepal Online. Photo by Ang Kami Sherpa|