I resolved to being more deliberate with my vacations, do more volunteering, and I was Jonesing to do something artistic. A photo project focussed on people sounded really good. I ended up contacting an organization in Kathmandu, Nepal that has established a restaurant, Sarangi, from which all profits go to benefit a marginal community of musicians called the Gandharba. I was hopeful that my photography could serve their organization and I was eager to make some images of these beautiful people that would do honor to their culture and traditions. They were keen to have me.
So I packed up some gear. I opted for the smaller body of my Nikon D700, my 24-70, 70-200, and my new 85 f1.4g which would be delivered to me on my trip. I took some radio triggers, a grip of Vivitar 285 flashes, and a small lightbox. Honestly, this was about as light as I could travel, but it was still a bit of a pain since I would be in Vietnam first and then connect in India for a night. I was carting around too much, but in the end, I feel it was worth it. I started to read up on the people I would be meeting there.
Historically, the Gandharba have been the a lower caste of musicians who travel from town to town, singing Nepali folk songs and sharing current events and news in the form of music. As things have evolved, cell phones and computers have begun to replace the Gandharba, making it more and more difficult to make a living by traditional means. They have had to resort to looking for other sources of income. Many now walk the streets of Kathmandu pedaling instruments and CDs of their music. Others work in brick factories, taking their children out of school to work alongside them for up to six months out of the year. Some farm. Some do random manual labor jobs that result in incomes of one to two dollars a day. Communities are left impoverished and stripped of their culture.