Kevin Bubriski has been photographing Nepal for forty years. His fine art photographs are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, and he was recipient of Guggenheim, Fulbright and NEA fellowships. His books include Portrait of Nepal, (1993); Power Places of Kathmandu: Hindu and Buddhist Holy Sites in the Sacred Valley of Nepal (1995) and most recently the retrospective monograph Nepal 1975-2011 was published by the Peabody Museum Press, Cambridge, MA and Radius Books, Santa Fe, NM.
Kevin Bubriski’s protest photographs, the most recent of which were taken only five years before the 2016 election, are a kind of time capsule. Like many rediscoveries, they offer a sense of continuity while also revealing the distance between now and then. Today, those of us who are not essential workers, doing what we can to take care of ourselves and others from home, are faced with the task of organizing remotely, joining together in arenas other than the street. In addition to everything else it touches, Covid-19 may forever change the way Americans participate in political life.
In 1979 I took a United Service Organizations bus tour from Seoul to the DMZ. Once there, we were admitted to a conference room that straddled the border. North Korean soldiers peered in at the windows. My negatives from that day sat collecting dust on a shelf for nearly forty years. Seeing the images for the first time, I’m struck by the choreography of the soldiers on either side of the border; they seemed to be involved in an intricate dance of watching and being watched. There was a paradoxical intimacy to the encounter despite the great unknowing.
These photos of Nepal, the first series taken in the 1980s, and the second after the earthquakes, show what has been lost both to time and to natural disaster, and just what an incredible task it will be to rebuild and restore the country.