These portraits of Nepali people show strength amidst the devastation of an earthquake that hit the country earlier this year
Earlier this year, an earthquake with a 7.8 magnitude hit Nepal, killing 9,000 people; flattening the country and plunging it into a long-term social, economic and mental catastrophe. Growing up in Nepal until she was 14-years-old, it was tough for photographer-filmmaker Camille Summers Valli to watch unfold. “The newspapers were overflowing with images of devastation and destruction. I had it in my mind that Nepal was completely flattened, and felt at a total loss of how my skills as a filmmaker and photographer could be useful,” she says.
Together, her and an old family friend set up the Nepal Earthquake Recovery Appeal with the aim of identifying capable, trustworthy and competent grassroots organisations and NGOs who were working on the ground during the recovery process. “(We wanted to) support them with grants for urgent earthquake relief aid and seed funding for projects and initiatives focusing on mid-term recovery and rebuilding,” Summers Valli explains. “My role was to profile these organisations through the medium of short films and highlight the importance of empowering local initiatives and communities to rebuild and recover.”
“People were operating off very little sleep and food to do everything they could to support their country” – Camille Summers Valli
Since the earthquake, the photographer-filmmaker has visited twice, the first trip was just days after it struck and the second visit was in July. “The response of Nepali citizens was not to wait on the government or InGos to act, but to act themselves. Tarps, food, building supplies and medical response teams were everywhere. People were operating off very little sleep and food to do everything they could to support their country,” she recalls. “This most recent trip was very challenging. The monsoon, generally my favorite season in Nepal, with the humid torrential rains was a sore reminder of how many people are homeless and now under threat of disease epidemics.”
Summers Valli goes on to explain the effect on the country’s youth, who are increasingly moving to other cities due to uncertain futures in Nepal. “61 per cent of the population are between 15 and 64-years-old, and huge numbers of the youth are moving away for work internationally, much of which we are hearing about in the media these days; the terrible working conditions of Nepalis in the UAE,” she says. “The number of people moving away has increased due to the social and economic impact of the earthquake.” With historical sites ‘damaged beyond repair’ and ‘village after village flattened’, Summers Valli hopes her images will help ‘individualise’ Nepali people. In a series of portraits, Summers Valli’s subjects look undeterred – examples of the strength and adversity of the human spirit.