Having never seen camera nor heard about photography during his childhood, Gorakh Bista journey to becoming a leading landscape photographer is inspirational. Born and raised in Humla, Karnali, Gorakh learned to appreciate nature from an early age but it was his curiosity to know more which led him towards photography. “I used to work in a studio where I took passport size pictures. I started researching cameras and photography through magazines, newspapers and other resources. And this opened the doors towards a career in photography,” he recalls.
A self-taught photographer, Gorakh has travelled across Nepal in his quest for taking amazing pictures. But he shares that his first trip to Kailash Mansarovar is when he decided to pursue landscape photography for a lifetime. “The trip to Mansarovar was life changing. The terrain was completely different and I fell in love completely,” he shares.
In a 15-year career, Gorakh has earned recognition for his craft and been awarded for his photographs. Twelve of his images are now adorning the walls of the residence of Nepal’s President.
In conversation with WOW’s Ankita Jain, Gorakh shares his love for nature, how modern development has affected nature, and the life lessons he gained from photography.
There are only a few landscape photographers in the country. What made you choose to specialise in this?
Landscape photography requires a lot of patience. Waiting is an addiction. You become curious about how nature will take shape. My journey has made me addictive to waiting for natural beauty. It’s a kind of meditation for me. There are various reasons why there aren’t many in this field. First, landscape photography takes you out of your comfort zone. You might have to walk for months to capture the beauty of a destination. Second, there’s no instant cash back. Third, not everyone can bear the harsh weather conditions and not everyone can risk their lives for a particular picture. Lastly, you have to be dedicated.
These days, we have access to many locations – there are roads, hotels and other facilities. When I started my career, such luxuries weren’t there. In the coming years, I am sure there will be more talent in this field.
Turning your passion into profession, was the transition difficult?
I wasn’t sure if I will be able to make money out of my passion. However, I starting finding the links. I started making connections with travel agencies and selling my pictures to them which were used as promotional images. Due to lack of finances, I also used to get my travel sponsored by the agencies in return of exclusive pictures. This way I recognised my market. Eventually, I started selling prints of my images to individuals for their living rooms. I am glad that I am able to share the vibe of pristine locations through my images. I deliver happiness through my pictures. I always believe an artist should know how to survive through his/her artwork.
Photography wasn’t regarded as a full-time occupation when you started your career, how did you convince your family?
Even today, except my wife, everyone is against my profession. They want me to hold a 9 to 5 job with greater securities, stability and no adventure. And I wanted to do studio photography but I couldn’t pursue after I studied photography. I was always aware of the fact that landscape photography will give me a lot of lifelong experiences which can’t exist elsewhere. It gave me name, fame and lifetime experiences. For me, travelling is equal to reading a thousand books.
How has climate change and modern development affected nature?
Climate change has changed snow capped mountains into black rocks but modern development is something I am more worried about. Modern development without planning is affecting nature immensely. For instance, the views you see today, you might not be able to see the same the next time you visit the same location.
Mustang and Dolpo can be considered the best examples. Yes, they need hospitals, infrastructures but with proper urban planning. Unplanned construction has resulted in landslides in many of the places. Roads have been pitched without considering the natural habitat. The places which should have been exclusive are no longer that way.
What are some life lessons that photography has taught you?
Live a simple life and be able to blend into nature. I consider myself lucky as there are many people who have never seen the colours of mornings and evenings, the different colours and moods of nature. Observing these makes me forget the hardships I have had in my career.
If not a photographer, what would you be?
Word of advice for younger photographers?
Find mentor early in life, use best camera gears in the initial stages itself, choose best location, wait for the best natural light and use your artistic skill.