It was like a dream coming true. I was very excited to see him. Though I am a huge fan of his photography, I did not know how he looked like. That was the reason why I stared at every foreigner passing by. Being a photographer, I was very pleased that he wanted me to assist him in his work. This was his first visit to Nepal and I was determined to help him for some outstanding captures he had ever made. Waiting for his arrival, I was standing in the Tribhuvan International Airport’s waiting room for more than an hour holding a nameplate in my hands with his name “Mario Marino” written on it. The only thing that kept ringing on my mind was that he is one of the greatest portrait photographers in the world. I was all set for my first experience to work with such a renowned international photographer and learn various skills to succeed in my goal to be a good photographer.
It was a very beautiful morning. I headed to the hotel around 8 am and from there Mario and I headed to Pashupatinath temple. We hired a man to carry his reflectors. I briefed them the history of the temple. Maha Shivaratri, a very holy Hindu festival was to be celebrated soon so, Sadhu Babas gather in the streets nearby the temple coming all the way from India and different parts of Nepal to worship Lord Shiva. We set up our cameras and started to shoot. Mario was playing with the available sunlight. He was just reflecting the light to the face by bouncer and keeping background with the black and sometimes with the white softer. The trick was very simple, almost like photographing models outdoor and I was surprised how the sunlight was going silky to the face and the background was absorbing a good volume of light. He was playing with soft shadow by filtering the exact amount of direct sunlight. He had full control over direct sunlight just by using the bouncer and black and sometimes white portable background. While playing with black background and the subject, we put in the shadow by using the softer. We were getting very good pictures. Time and again, he was telling me about the techniques of shooting portrait. I asked him, “Why do you love to shoot only portraits?” He said, “I love landscapes of the face and I want to shoot pictures that will stay long. Besides that, it’s from my inside. I can’t explain it but I just love it”.
I got to the hotel at 8:30 am. Me, Mario and one porter headed to Kapan monastery by a cab. It was almost an hour drive from the Lazimpat. On the way, Mario shared his photographic experience in Africa with us. When we reached there, we all had a cup of coffee and in the meantime, I asked the receptionist whether we could capture any photographs in the monastery. Unfortunately, they did not allow us to shoot any pictures. We headed to next nearby monastery but again we faced the same problem. One boy suggested us to go Pullhari monastery. Pullhari Monastery was about half an hour walk from Kapan monastery.
It was a beautiful morning. We enjoyed the hiking a lot. We went to find the senior Monk and asked him if we could shoot. Finally, we were permitted shoot but only after 1 pm so we had to wait about one and half hour. After 1 pm we set up our instruments and Mario and I started to photograph some Monks. On the way back, we stopped by one local school and took some good pictures of the playful school kids. Each time when Mario photographed people, he left some presents for them. This time he left enough money to buy pencils and erasers for the school kids. Every time when we were taking pictures, I was carefully looking at my watch. That time, it was about 3 pm and the light present in the atmosphere was very helpful for the type of pictures we needed. He used white softer and bouncer, which were producing a shadow right to the kid’s body. After wrapping up, we walked back to the Kapan monastery and had some coffee. Our cab was ready to pick us up. On the way back, Mario was talking about the dusty air in the city and heavy unmanaged traffic. What I did at that moment was that I just told them few things about the situation of our country because I did not want to outrage them anymore.
It was not really a good day for us. I had to meet him on his hotel at 9 am. He wanted to shoot wedding bands and Panchay Baza. I had contacts but did not work at that moment and we headed to Basantapur. Mario took some pictures but he didn’t find any interesting faces and also the place was too crowded. Besides taking pictures, we also talked about lenses. He said that he actually didn’t like zoom lenses. He had always worked with fixed lenses. All his great portraits were from 85 mm. After Basantapur, we headed to Shoyambhu monastery to find some monks and other new faces. We didn’t find anything interesting over there as well. We went to a nearby restaurant and I made few contacts to fix appointment with wedding bands and the Panche Baja team. A lot of weddings were being celebrated in the city, so most of them were busy. Nothing was coming out right. Mario was very cool and calm and we started to talk about photography once again. He was telling me how to play with the main light (sunlight) and make it softer and how to play with the shadows. Sometime with the white bouncer and while playing with it, we just have to cast our subject in the shadow, not the background.
While stepping downstairs from Shoyambhu temple, he saw some interesting faces and we started taking pictures there. We got back to Basantapur around 4 pm. I felt sorry for Mario because he was here for portrait photography and we could not get any good pictures for the day. But Mario had no problem with it because he knew photography is all about patience. You could go months without getting a good picture but one day you will get a picture that will worth for all your wasted time. He tried to soothe me by sharing his African experience where he had a very tough time to find the tribal people for his portrait photography.
I met him at 10 am in the hotel and we headed to shoot wedding bands and Panche Baza. We shot both and my friend Prakash helped a lot to make it happen. Only the main light was taking our time because we were not getting the right light but, it was good enough and the band played a Nepalese folk song for Undine, which she enjoyed a lot. After that we headed towards a restaurant to have some coffee and snacks. Well, the day was 14th February and it was a Valentines Day. Mario asked me about my girlfriend. I told him that she got married and is now happy with another guy. Mario said, “You don’t have for the moment but you might have somebody, you will never know”. He told me that he had his first girlfriend when he was just 14 years old and Undine had her first boyfriend when she was only 16. Next shooting appointment did not work and we switched to plan B. We headed to Bhaktapur, little far from Dadhikot to search for some school kids. Eventually, we photographed some school kids again. Everybody relaxed for the day and it was a really great day getting some perfect captures.
Routine was the same and early in morning we headed to Basantapur. Mario shot some pictures there but not by using softer and background as there were many tourists around. I was feeling little pressurized about the day because the morning light was about to go. We headed to Shoyambhu once again but were unable to shoot monks. We had some beer at the restaurant and Mario started to teach me about light and how we could control it. While he was explaining, I noted down some tips. One thing I must not forget to tell here is that he never hesitated to teach me and he gave me clear explanations. I was eager to learn. He opened his camera bag and gifted me one portable light that was a great feeling to me. He said, “You still have a long time. Do more research and experiments and figure out what you really like to do and make your own way”.
I kept calling my friends to fix the appointment with the wedding bands but nothing was coming out right. On the way back, he shot some old people and monk at Shoyambhu. I heard that some cultural program was ongoing in Tudikhel. We went there but there was no show but only a political speech. We were little frustrated. We made a plan to go Nagi Gumba the next morning and I left home. The day was tough but yet like Mario always used to say – “We will see tomorrow. You will never know what tomorrow brings you”.
As usual, I reached the hotel early in the morning and we headed to Nagi Gumba by 9 am. It is almost 30 minutes drive but the road was rough and it took us almost one hour to get there. Mario was a little disturbed at that time because the light was fading out. I talked to the Aani of the monastery and few of them were ready for picture but they took long time to come out. After taking some pictures, we rolled back to the city. Same traffic again. It was in the middle of the day but heavy traffic jam in Chabahil. Mario saw some people throwing garbage in the street and said to me. “That’s stupidity”. I told him nobody cares in this crazy city. We had an appointment with the wedding bands near Baneshwor. Mario needed to pick up some instruments from the hotel so I had to take them to the hotel. I waited nearly more than an hour but the members of wedding band were taking too long to get ready and yet they were not gathering. Yet again, it was same traffic and I was very frantic because light was fading out and Mario was waiting in the hotel. “Where have you been”, he asked me when I reached there with the team of wedding band. I was unable to explain him. He shot all and called three boys on Sunday for shooting because we had to leave to Pokhara the next day. Another worse day and I was very sad. While having drinks in a bar, we discussed about our trip to Pokhara. We will stay for the school kids and will see what will come on our way.
It was a cold morning and we went to Pokhara. On the way, we shot two schools kids and stopped at many places. I asked Mario about German people, society and culture as I told them same about Nepalese culture and living and family system. They agreed that ours is a very different system in many ways and it has its own advantages and disadvantages. But it is true that we are back in many ways like health, education, development, etc. They highly appreciated our culture and civilization around 3000 years old.
We reached Pokhara around 6 pm and stayed in a hotel. In the hotel, I talked to the manager and told him about our plans and discussed about the best places to shoot some Nepalese faces though my friend was visiting us the next morning with his ideas. We roamed by the lakeside at night. Mario really liked the city, I explained him the beauty of Pokhara and the culture.
Around 8 am my friend Amrit Poudel came to meet me at the hotel and we talked about the places to go. We headed to Lumle. On the way, we shot school kids. At Lumle, we trekked and Mario found some interesting old faces and local kids and we shot them. In my case, I had to help to position and hold the bouncer. Mario shot profile as I explained already. I was unable to shoot pictures but while trekking I captured some portraits and landscapes. It was really a beautiful place. My friend was helping us and showing us places. We returned back and it was beautiful evening. On the way back, we stopped by and shot some street workers and the pictures were really great. The wedding was being held in the streets of Pokhara and Mario found that wedding band very interesting. Amrit and me spoke to that band and appointed them for the next morning. At the hotel, we refreshed ourselves and went for dinner. Amrit was also with us. We headed to the same restaurant because Mario liked the food at that restaurant. We had a good time there. Again we talked about photography. I told Mario how tough it is to get established as a professional photographer here in Nepal. I can’t quit photography but it’s really getting hard day by day and I am confused in many ways. “Stay positive and work everyday. You still have a long way to go and photographers live long. Look at me. I am 45 now, doing this from many years and I want to do twenty years more. Follow the masters. Do your research and develop your own eye and I know you will”, he replied. He just had an amazing energy and always showed better side of life, the brighter side. I was learning a lot and enjoying the moment with one of my Masters who was in front of me and we were drinking and talking about photography.
Amrit arrived in the hotel early in the morning and I went out with him to schedule the wedding band that we had spoken to the day before via phone. They were demanding a lot of money for pictures. We got back to the hotel and had some breakfast. We were leaving to Kathmandu that day. Mario told me that we’d meet them and try to negotiate with them. The wedding band was really washing our brains. Finally, they were ready to shoot and one of them was drunk early in the morning and not giving proper shot. That was funny but disturbing. Later, we said goodbye to my friend Amrit and headed back to Kathmandu. On the way back, we talked a lot and stopped by a resort too. It was 7 am when we got back to Kathmandu.
As before, early in the morning I went to meet wedding band. I had to collect them from different places as appointment was fixed but they were not together at the right time. I took them to the hotel and we took some photographs. It was the day of Maha Shivaratri and I told Mario that we couldn’t set up in Pashupatinath. We went to Bouddha. Mario found some interesting faces. We set up there and started to shoot. Mario was choosing faces and I was asking them to stand up in front of the background. We did this continuously up to three days. He really liked Bouddha. We roamed Gumbas near Bouddha. Most of them were busy for Losar and we unable to shoot what we liked to, the Monk. Nevertheless, we found some monks in front of Bouddha Stupa and really interesting faces of kids and wedding band (Shivaratri) day on Bouddha Stupa. One thing I must tell is that we continuously shot for three days in Bouddha. I can predict now what kind of faces he loves to shoot and what portraiture is all about. I really respect his sharp eye on selection of faces. It was really interesting for me to watch his selection because I was learning to select. He taught me how to choose faces among the mass of faces. Then on the next day we shot some Sadhus of Pashupatinath Temple and school kids as well.
Finally the days had to come to an end. 25th Feb, 2012. It was our last day of shooting. We finished our shooting from Bouddha and Mario said goodbye to our porter, Subash. He was with us everywhere except in Pokhara. I asked sir Mario, “so how is your experience of Nepal?” He said, “People are really helpful and calm here. I liked being here more than any other country. Nepal is really beautiful. Well I, being a portrait photographer, my mission is over and got good pictures. Now my next part is to do some work on these pictures which will take me around six months. Then I will send the pictures to magazines and make exhibition to fulfill my expansions of Nepal and try to collect money for next country, maybe Africa again or Asia again. I don’t know. I will figure out. My journey is continuing for search of great faces from the world and the fuel of the faces”.
I, my friend Prabin and Mario had lunch in the hotel. I gave Mario a copy of traditional music of our country and some souvenir. He left me one portable background and portable light and money to buy photo printer. He was leaving the next morning and I knew I am going to miss working with him. Now I can only imagine how fruitful for me were the last 15 days to work with one of the greatest portrait photographers and my personal favorite. I will always remember his energetic words while I got disappointed and frustrated on my photography carrier. He always told me that, “ Amit, work every day, do your own research, follow the masters, try to find what you love most on different branches of photography and do it, do it for years and years and over and again, make your own path, trust yourself, develop your own eye and the time will lead you to success”.
About Mario Marino
Mario Marino was born in 1967 in Austria, based in Germany, working as an artist and Freelance Portrait photographer for international Magazines since 2000. He has exhibited in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, London and Munich. His works have featured in major arts and photographic magazines in France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, UK and USA. His one of the famous book is ‘Faces of Africa; mariomarino.com
Thank you for your stay.
Posted on April 7, 2012 » by Lensman