Shadows beneath Annapurna’s cheekbones


Annapurnas make you humble,” said German photographer and geologist Andreas Stimm at his show at the Indigo Gallery. “The smiles of the people here in the face of hardships and abysmal poverty are rare, unlike in Germany where in spite of possessing all riches, people seldom smile…”

It is Annapurnas that brought us together. We had visited the area separately. He had been round Annapurnas four times since 1998. I have made the sanctuary my second home for more than a decade. We went into these stadiums of delight, saw the sparkle of the glaciers and smiles of the people struggling like mules around Annapurnas to make a living and returned with photo images and poems respectively.

I might have passed by him on the steep mule path. He might have chanced a customary

‘Namaste’ on the trail or we might have shared a mint tea or a glass of raksi or danced to the tunes of exhausted porters in a lodge by the fireside in a dark night, Resham phreereeree…

But we were destined to go on our ways as strangers, only to meet in Frankfurt and become friends. The first time I met Andreas, he was with his dazzling wife Silke and asked me to sign my recent book on Annapurnas for him. He came from the area in Germany that I had always longed to visit. We kept in touch on the net, barely knowing he would bring out my life’s most gorgeous coffee table book with the Himalayan magnitude soon.

Meeting Andreas turned out to be a series of surprises. First he made me his coauthor by using poetry from The Lake Fewa and a Horse. When I received the first copy in London, I was overwhelmed. It promoted my readings in the UK. While working with Andreas, I soon discovered that he is a highly perceptive and sensitive human being. He has that old European

touch of class and compassion in him. He respects the roots, traditions and poetry that throb in the veins of each and every Nepali. His book of panoramic photography that he has published is not just a snooty book about Himalayan peaks, it is a humble tribute to the idea of poetry itself in the current dazzle of print media blitz.

The book, photographic and poetic journey around the Annapurnas, Nepal, is also a solemn acknowledgement of the beauty and grandeur of people struggling in the idyllic landscape. The other surprise that Andreas offered came in the format and technique of his art of photography. To see the entire book in black and white, instead of colours was unique. His photographs do not glamorise the beauty of the landscape and poverty of the people in it. The people in his photographs do not evoke pity or beg for sympathy. Nor do they seem to be posing as home grown models to get humanitarian or Western aid or act as penniless promoters of country’s tourism industry.

They seem to be entrapped in their own worlds lost in the precious moments of their regular lives. Andreas’ photos make us think what they must be thinking about the sordid dramas of their lives. “Black and white photography,” says Andreas, “avoids the mathematical equations that digital photography with its rigid perfection seems to offer. The b/w photos leave the door open for you to view pictures you are facing. Colour photos have so much colour in them that you take the perfection of the subject for granted. You do not exert to probe the picture carefully and closely.”

In Andreas’ opinion, b/w would set the ultimate standards of fine photography in times to come. “It’s the future of photography,” he discerns. Quoting a famous fashion and portrait photographer who once said that he uses only black and white because that’s the only way to bring out the different shades in the shadow of a woman’s cheek bone, German scholar Dr Johanna Wernicke-Rothmayer while inaugurating the show of panoramic photographs at Indigo Gallery added, “Andreas Stimm’s black and white photos invite you to come inside and get a closer look at the shadows beneath Annapurna’s cheekbones.”