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How the Photo KTM festival is empowering the next generation of creatives in Nepal through interdisciplinary collaborations

How the Photo KTM festival is empowering the next generation of creatives in Nepal through interdisciplinary collaborations

How the Photo KTM festival is empowering the next generation of creatives in Nepal through interdisciplinary collaborations

Nayan Tara Gurung Kakshapati co-founded Photo Circle more than fifteen years ago with the goal of giving photographers, visual artists, and filmmakers in Kathmandu access to resources and a strong support network through grants, exhibits, mentoring programs, and other means. Most crucial, though, is by providing them with a feeling of belonging and an environment that encourages idea sharing—something that is uncommon in Nepal because of the country’s poor arts infrastructure. We founded the Photo KTM festival in 2015 because we thought that there wasn’t a lot of access to the arts in Nepal unless you were fortunate enough to travel; there isn’t a significant museum or gallery culture.The festival is an attempt to try to breach that gap,” says Gurung.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

The current iteration of the biennial Photo KTM festival was held in March of this year, although it had a different tone than its prior iterations, which focused more on the documentary and educational arts scenes. Together with Nikhil D., a stylist and co-founder of the talent agency Feat Artists, and photographer Adil Hasan, located in Delhi, the team organized a four-day intensive and hands-on class on fashion and visual culture. The workshop would be a fantastic chance for aspiring art directors, models, stylists, photographers, and pretty much any other Nepali fashion enthusiast in Kathmandu to design a visual campaign from mood board to post-production, under the guidance of South Asian professionals in the industry.

How the Photo KTM festival is empowering the next generation of creatives in Nepal through interdisciplinary collaborations

Courtesy of Adil Hasan Courtesy of Adil Hasan

The choice made by Gurung, Hasan, and Nikhil D to immerse workshop participants in a comprehensive campaign production, aimed to shed light on the intricacies of commercial fashion photography. This decision was the consequence of a series of casual discussions concerning the reasons behind creatives’ reluctance to take on commercial projects instead of editorial ones.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Gurung says, “We’ve been talking about this kind of total value system that occasionally gets created that we end up somehow buying into.” “On the one hand, we always struggle and talk about how much money and support the arts and independent practitioners require. Because of this, many artists—young and old, regardless of experience level—end up taking on commercial tasks to make ends meet. But for some reason, we seldom put much emphasis on the commercial job we perform; many are too ashamed to acknowledge they are working for pay. We have been wondering why hierarchies are necessary. Fashion is a genre that has such a massive impact on the larger visual culture, informing it in such a specific way. So this time, the idea for this workshop came about with addressing this head on”, she says.

Courtesy of Adil HasanCourtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil HasanCourtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Furthermore, the well-known Nepalese designer Prabal Gurung, who is now based in New York, traveled to Kathmandu for a brief meeting with the attendees, leaving them impressed and in awe. Almost all Nepali creatives have mentally charted his voyage from Kathmandu to the globe, and for good reason. In addition, for the purpose of the campaign shot, which featured models who were everything but mainstream and had quite diverse personalities, the designer gave them full access to his archives in the city, which included a variety of clothes from his shows over the previous seven or eight years.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

The goal of the diversified casting process, which was overseen by Gurung and Nikhil D of Photo KTM, was to provide an example for local representation for the workshop attendees. Hasan and Nikhil D agree that “the crux of the shoot is actually with the cast,” citing a transgender model operating PINK Tiffany, the first gay bar in Nepal, a queer rights activist, and a hip-hop dancer and instructor for children as examples. The pair was aware that they were not native to Nepal and that it would be inappropriate to hold a workshop there without presenting the country’s people and culture in a way that goes beyond conventional notions of culture. “It was exciting to see Kathmandu showcased in a new light through this shoot,” Gurung says succinctly.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil HasanCourtesy of Adil Hasan

The final product perfectly captures the zeitgeist of urban culture in Nepal, which is ripe for experimentation and expressiveness. It was shot in culturally significant hotspots frequented by Kathmandu’s youth, such as Patan Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the lush landscapes and foliage of Kirtipur. The Snowman café on Freak Street has been there since the 1970s. Hip-hop artist Jenisha Maharjan, co-founder and creative director of Nepal HipHop Foundation, says of the locations they shot, “Most of them are where we’d often hang out after college and work, which made it all the more significant and special for me because I grew up in these streets.” Jenisha was chosen as one of the models.

Courtesy of Adil HasanCourtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

With their bold color scheme and simple draping, Prabal’s edgy outfits enhanced the idea without drawing attention to themselves. They confidently added more character to each setting. Against the backdrop of Kathmandu’s valleys and flora, models lounged in pleated skirts that were neon and color-blocked. They also rode their skateboards in the nearby park, swigging Fanta as they recorded each other with vintage camcorders while wearing printed tops and cut-out dresses. “I believe the result does a good job of capturing the essence of the city. Together with the actors, Kathmandu has really much been a character in this entire storytelling exercise, says Gurung.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

These kinds of workshops and initiatives are only the start of what is a burgeoning sector in the nation and a favoured meeting place for interregional partnerships amongst South Asians from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and other countries, without the headache of visa requirements.

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

Courtesy of Adil Hasan

Courtesy of Adil Hasan ADIL HASAN

“Notwithstanding its tiny size and numerous infrastructure deficiencies, I believe Nepal’s creative scene is expanding in fascinating ways. The lack of a significant commercial art market here is also liberating in a way. Thus, in an atmosphere free from commercial forces, artists may truly establish their voice and positionality when there are no large art fairs, gallery networks, or communities of collectors, for example, concludes Gurung. Now it’s just up and forward.

 

Nitu Rajvanshi
Welcome to my website for fashion blogging! I’m a passionate fashion designer with a keen interest in fashion studies. My name is Nitu Rajvanshi. I started this website to offer my expertise and opinions on different fashion-related subjects. I want to help students who are interested in learning more about the fashion industry and fashion fans by sharing useful knowledge through my blog posts. My blog posts address a variety of subjects, such as fashion history, design principles, trend spotting, and more. I want to encourage and inform readers who are considering a career in fashion by sharing my knowledge and experiences. I’m committed to keeping up with the most recent fashion trends and methods as a fashion designer. I try to educate those who share my enthusiasm for fashion studies by sharing my knowledge and expertise through my blog.