It was day of triple celebrations for the photojournalists of The Himalayan Times on May 24: chief photographer Rajesh Gurung had been decorated with the Babu Chhiri Photojournalism Award, while only recently two other photographers — Rajendra Manandhar and Udipt Singh Chhetry had won the first prizes at the National Forum Photojournalists’ contest in the
News and Sports categories respectively.
“Saarai khushi chhu (I am very happy),” said a beaming Gurung. “To receive an award named after such a famous mountaineer and then to receive it from the hands of the Indian ambassador, it is just too good,” he said.
Gurung’s career high can be traced back to September, 2003 when he stalked the ‘Serpent’ Charles Gurumukh Sobhraj for three days before getting the shots of this man known as the ‘Bikini Killer’.
“I didn’t know who Sobhraj was. A friend told me about him and I was scared, but then I knew it was my duty to get the best shots possible for my newspaper,” said Gurung recalling those days.
The Serpent was arrested a few days after Gurung’s photographs of the man were published.
Taking photographs that have a risk factor in them still fascinate Gurung and he hopes one day to win the World Press Photo Award.
However, for Chhetry sports is his beat any day.
“I am perhaps the first person in Nepal to just do sports photojournalism. I am a great sports enthusiast and I love taking ‘action’ shots. Choosing this line, I am getting my dose of entertainment as well as doing my job,” said Chhetry.
He has a number of scoops in his kitty — red card to Basanta Thapa, yellow cards in badminton and volleyball — which are rare. And he said his will to stay the entire duration of the matches has paid off.
“I stay the entire 90 minutes in a football match. I never know what the next minute will bring,” said Chhetry, who judges his photographs to be on par with those of Getty, Reuters, AP and AFP.
Chhetry said he will not slack now that he has earned an award from his peers. “There are more challenges ahead, many more better photographs to be taken,” said Chhetry, who believes that a good photojournalist must have loads and loads of “patience” to get that one single, perfect shot.
Wasn’t he scared to take such daring and dangerous photos? And Manandhar simply answered, “Pesha nai tai bhaye (If that is one’s profession...)”
That says it all. Manandhar dared the curfews, police laathi charge, threats from protestors, among others, and risked his life to take photographs of Jana Andolan II.
“At that time you don’t have fear. You just know you have to take photographs and tell the world what’s happening.”
From being a fashion photographer, covering hard news was a big change for Manandhar, and one which he has taken in his stride. And he believes there are better photographs ahead.
With the kind of photographs he takes, he has received a number of threats, but Manadhar believes that the only voice he hears then is the one that says, “This is your chance to show the world the real picture.”
All three feel that they have arrived. All know that they have better photographs to click and bigger awards to win, but Manandhar put it best.
“No more of this violence. No more deaths. To get a photograph of someone else being hurt, someone else’s death — I hope that I don’t have to take such photographs ever again.”