“Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirits.”
― Studs Terkel
I awoke early one morning while in Nepal earlier this year and wandered the streets of Patan, the seat of one of the ancient kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley. One of my favorite things to do when I’m inspired photographically in a new place is to get up with the early light and walk in the direction of the sun and see what beauty the dawn reveals. As the rays guided me through the backroads and alleyways, I peered through an open gate and saw a scrapyard where a man was laboring with a mallet, shaping an old piece of metal in service of some new function.
Once I got his attention, I pointed to the camera and asked through a sideways waggle of my head whether it would be fine to take a photo. He waggled in return and resumed his hammering. In person, this was a very noisy scene, but the image here, to me, contains a tangible stillness. A man sits and works, anonymously silhouetted, silently frozen, with the soundtrack instead provided by the the visual cacophony of his surroundings.
I have been graced in this lifetime with various capacities, happenstances and choices that have eased my reliance on typical work. As my life generally involves little physical toil, I often find myself drawn toward trying to understand what a life of toil is like. I read Stud’s Terkel’s tome ‘Working” when I was a teenager and to this day I feel impacted and remain curious about work and the lives that people live. My camera helps me to explore this curiosity. As the son of a photographer and a jazz singer, my early role models were hardly of the traditional white or even blue collar variety.
My own exploration has grown lately through my search for greater meaning, fulfillment, and contribution from the work efforts I make in this lifetime. In many ways, it is that search that brought me to Nepal in the first place and again finds me here.