An elderly Newar woman suffering from tuberculosis in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu Valley, Nepal.
I could see her hobbling along the cobblestone-and-brick streets of
Bhaktapur. Her vivid purple shalwar kameej stood in stark contrast to
the beige and ruddy hues of old-town Bhaktapur.
As we approached, she moved toward us slowly, carefully, her frail
body illustrating every ache and pain. Hunched and somewhat crippled
from age and a difficult life in Nepal, she only came up to my ribcage.
Clasping her hands in a begging position in front of her face, she
explained in a shrill voice through rotted teeth that she was suffering
from tuberculosis and had no money for food, let alone medical care.
"Please," she wailed, "please, sahib, please help me."
In Nepal in general, it is not customary to give money to beggars
unless they are physically or mentally incapable of helping themselves.
This kind old woman certainly feel into the acceptable donations
category, and thus I gave her what I could. It was but a financial
Band-Aid - she needed far more money than I had to ensure a healthy
life and a positive future. But, it was something, and hopefully that
night she was able to fill her belly and buy some medicine to help her
A drokpa, or Tibetan nomad, woman with her baby tied to her back outside of Ditrul Phuk Gompa on the kora, or circumambulation, of Mount Kailash, Tibet.
I could see them, dressed up in their finest clothes, as we approached the entrance to Ditrul Phuk Gompa, a monastery on the north side of the sacred kora, or circumambulation, of holy Mount Kailash (AKA Kang Rinpoche). A group of drokpa, or Tibetan nomads, sadly a rapidly disappearing group on the high plains of the Tibetan Plateau.
I approached cautiously, not wanting to scare them off with my camera. A polite clasping of hands in the prayer position coupled with a soft greeting of tashi delek eased any tension that was there. They were beautiful people, tall and proud with wide smiles splashing across high cheekbones. After chatting a bit with my extremely limited Tibetan language skills and hand signals, I asked, in rudimentary Tibetan, if I could take a picture of them: Para gyabna digi-rebay?
They nodded a polite yes, the men posing austerely and the woman grinning sheepishly. I snapped about 20 photos on my Nikon D200, bracketing exposures in the knowledge that this scene might not present itself again. When they seemed to have had enough, I spun the camera around, went into review mode, and showed them their picture on the monitor. Smiles again...surprise...disbelief. They most likely had never had their picture taken, let alone actually seen it in front of them.
We zoomed in, zoomed out, and went through the various pictures still stored on my memory card. Then, it was time to go - to dinner for me, and to continue the sacred kora for them. As I always like to do, I gave them a small bit of money to say thanks - as a professional photographer, I feel it is only right to compensate my "models" in some way.
And, with that, two worlds, joined together for a brief moment, went their separate ways...