Review by Gerhard Clausing •
As I write this review here in Southern California, which also is an area subjected to the instability of the earth from time to time, I am in awe of the destruction shown in these images and impressed by the spirit, resiliency, and continuity of the people of Nepal who suffered great losses in a major earthquake in 2015, as documented in this extensive and gripping documentary photobook.
There are no easy answers at such a time of tragedy, only many questions, as stated so eloquently by Manjushree Thapa in the foreword:
“Nepal Earthquake is not a book to rush through, but one to reflect over. How long can those struts hold up that temple? The book raises questions. How many weeks did that family live under tarpaulins? Look at that building leaning on another one. Did its inhabitants survive? Look at the workers standing on the rubble in open rubber sandals. What of their former lives was this community able to save?”
Less than eight years later, regions of Turkey and Syria have experienced another barrage of very strong earthquakes with even more devastating results. This book on the earthquake in Nepal serves a very important number of functions. We get a sense of the great destruction nature can exact on our humble abodes. We feel with those who suffered great personal losses among families and friends—injuries and deaths, as well as material losses—the images show us “up close and personal” what has transpired and may never be fully resolved. The life of society somehow continues, but individual circumstances can be seriously impacted, temporarily or for all time, even as some provisionary improvements may be anticipated for society as a whole.
Kevin Bubriski is a photojournalist who cares deeply about what he documents, as we have already seen in his previous work. He really gets involved with people and their situations. Thus this book is full of authentic portraits, accompanied by notes, of victims and helpers, and their affected environments. We see collapsed buildings and monuments, displaced people and domestic animals, all wondering what this is all about and what the future may hold. It is especially hard to see children who try to go about their daily business without the benefit (or curse) of fuller comprehension and overview. But the optimism that can be seen in the faces of the youngsters can perhaps serve as a bit of consolation and inspiration for their elders.
What also makes this book especially useful are the various opinions that the many essay writers provide. As we traverse the damaged sections of Nepal and the observations and captions of the events and people in images that Bubriski provides in this comprehensive project, we are also treated to a variety of observations and opinions by a number of the best English-language Nepal writers. These range from the very personal to the more analytical and journalistic, and it is interesting to note how such a major disaster will give voice to a range of first-hand observations and opinions. Extensive notes by Kevin Bubriski give us detailed first-hand impressions of the experience of this fascinating project, and allow us to accompany him in the documentation in a text encompassing 18 pages. By the way, he also has published a book about Syria, another country hit hard by earthquakes just now, among other strife.
The time that has passed since the Nepal earthquake provides the opportunity for a more considered and comprehensive look, as well as has allowed time to facilitate some healing and better planning for the future. The production of this handsome volume, produced and printed entirely in Nepal in spite of supply issues during the pandemic, makes this a singular achievement, a photobook to be treasured! It also gives us great humility and respect for the forces of nature that will always be beyond our full control.
The PhotoBook Journal previously reviewed Kevin Bubriski’s Our Voices, Our Streets: American Protests 2001 – 2011, Mustang in Black and White, and Pilgrimage.
Gerhard Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.
Kevin Bubriski – Nepal Earthquake
Photographer: Kevin Bubriski (born in North Adams, Massachusetts; lives in Shaftsbury, Vermont, USA)
Editor: Deepak Thapa
Publisher: Himal Books, Kathmandu, Nepal; © 2022
Essays: Foreword by Manjushree Thapa. Essays by Deepak Thapa, Prawin Adhikari, Anil Chitrakar, Muna Gurung, Tsering D Gurung, Niranjan Kunwar, Smita Magar, Pramod Mishra, Pranaya SJB Rana, Avishek Shrestha, Rabi Thapa, Kesang Tseten, and Prateebha Tuladhar. Preface and Photographer’s Journal by Kevin Bubriski.
Hardback with illustrated cover, sewn; 218 + xx pages, paginated; 8.75 x 11.25 inches (22.2 x 28.5 cm); printed by Wordscape the Printer Pvt Ltd, Lalitpur, Nepal; ISBN 978-9937-597-69-2
Photobook Designer: Norbo Lama
Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.
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