This little lady is one of my favorite shots of my project Eyes of Nepal showing portraits of Nepalese people after the earthquakes. Like most of the these images, she shows a shining smile that melts your heart.
The thing is that I almost did not take the picture at first. Here’s how I got the shot.
May 8th, some two weeks after the initial 7,9 earthquake that shook the country. I was back in Kathmandu to join the Canadian NGO CECI to follow them and document their relief missions that typically meant distributing much needed food and tarpaulins. On this day, the team and I went to the very affected region of Sindhupalchok. After the distribution was over, we were heading down the hills to start our journey back to Kathmandu but the traffic (yeah traffic deep in the hills, don’t try to understand) got us stuck on the road for a while.
Well this was my chance I thought. Instead of waiting in the car I got out and walked down the road to get more pictures of the other side of the river, showing very important destruction. I also thought it could be a pretty good opportunity to continue taking shots of the idea I just had during the day that turned out to be Eyes of Nepal. There was my little old lady.
Walking alone down the road amidst the destruction, I saw her. In front of a completely destroyed house (her own? I have no idea) sitting down her head in her hands and looking quite desperate. Her arm was in plaster and I supposed the injury was a result of the earthquake. The image was very strong and as much as I wanted to take it I hesitated, not wanting to show some disrespect to an already afflicted woman but I still approached her.
She looked at me and I raised the camera tentatively waiting for her reaction and there it was, a huge smile lighted her face and she thanked me with many namastes while joining her hands. I took a couple of shots, smiling and namasteing back and the car came back to pick a rather different Fred. I was deeply touched once again by the kindness and generosity of the Nepalese people. She probably had nothing left and was even hurt but was still smiling and reminding me the importance of my job and of the images. She knew that the world needed to see what happened and how important was media coverage. Thank you for this amazing picture, this amazing smile and for your motivation.
The Lady of the smile and plaster is one of many Nepalese people that touched me deeply and that I managed to show the strength through their eyes in the project Eyes of Nepal. If you want to see the rest of their resilience, head over here.
Some technical stuff:
- Close portrait at 70mm , get close, closer, yep, closer than that
- Big aperture = blurry background
- Focus on the eyes, the EYES
- Take the image at eye level
- Black and white portraits demand dramatic processing, pump up that contrast and darken that background