Gallery Nine (a collaborative venture set up by photographers, visual artists, writers, journalists and art lovers) opened this week in Lazimpat with 'Moments', a wide ranging retrospective of the photos of Mani Lama. Mani, known for his recent exhibits, his postcards, his collection 'Nepal The Himalayan Kingdom' and for his professional work for a variety of local agencies takes photos equally well in black and white and in colour.
As a working method he seems to pursue a wide-angle view that holds his zoom in check. Thus he never appropriates his subjects, but seems to have found them in the most revealing of circumstances. The viewers appreciate this, for they are allowed the space to decide on their own take of the scene and the moment.
In his photo of an old woman in Dolpo, though the photo is clearly of the woman (and we are troubled by her gaze), the basic simplicity of her circumstance and the light that heralds its way into the photo balances our reading. His signature photo of an old man sitting beneath a Shiva temple, embedded in a tree stamps on our mind: man, history and nature in one easy glance. A 100-year-old man and his 75-year old daughter in western Tibet celebrates without intruding the starkness of life endured. His perfect group photo of Tharu girls after a hair cutting ceremony with a single head full of hair remaining among many shaved heads graphically details the event. The girl from Thimi getting water from a well draws us into her labour even as we appreciate the depth and beauty of the scene.
For me, the finest of the photos, and what sets Mani's work apart, are those where beauty dominates. Waves that display a singular consistency in the rippling waters of a lake or the prayer beads that hang down with the shapely weight of their telling become objects in their own right. As a photographer Mani Lama seeks out not only moments that crystallise a person's place in his or her own world, but moments as well that are simply to be appreciated and seen. This is the beauty that overlays all the photos including those that invoke place more than person-the sepia photos of Lake Mansarowar and the richly detailed New Year Festival in Thimi.
This small gallery on Lazimpat, upstairs and adjacent to Darkroom Creations, has offered a gathering place for poets, musicians and performers and art lovers of all stripes. During the week interspersed between a lecture, a slide show and movie screening, were a multi-lingual poetry reading where one could hear Purna Vaidya reading in Nepal Bhasa (with translations in English) along with other poetry in Nepali and English, a drama performance by Sunil Pokharel and a tabla/didgeridoo duet by Sarita Mishra and Kanika.
Those involved with Gallery Nine hope that "their wide range of interests and experience can infuse Kathmandu's increasingly lively arts scene with vigour and vitality". Whether Gallery Nine can acco-mplish this is up to them, and
Mani Lama's "Moments" is on exhibition till 30 April 2003 at Gallery Nine, Lazimpat.
(Wayne Amtzis is a poet, photographer and a long-time resident of Nepal.)