"While organizing a charity event for Nepal, I went through thousands of different photos taken after the earthquake. Suddenly, quite by chance, I was struck by one image. Omar Havana, with one single shot, managed to capture the essence of that culture, wounded by the earthquake, rising from the ruins like Buddha with his ineffable smile. Omar’s photographs will enter the history of Nepal and his endurable love will be of tremendous support to the Nepalese people."
Bernardo Bertolucci. Italian Film Director of Little Buddha filmed in Bhaktapur, Nepal
"Omar himself talked openly of his love for this place, for its people and of their resilience. He described how he found nothing but smiles in the dreadful days after the first shock, from people whose homes and families had been decimated, who had been left with nothing but makeshift tents for homes. Those that still had houses and power were opening their doors to strangers as well as journalists to charge laptops and share their internet".
Hugh Pinney, vice-president of News for Europe, Middle East, and Africa at Getty Images. Interview on BBC.
On April 25th, 2015 an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude shook Nepal. Almost 9,000 people died, more than 22,000 people suffered injuries and more than half a million houses were destroyed. For months aftershocks rocked the country. People occupied the streets and open spaces in fear. Chaos dominated daily life.
One night, after running all day, photographing, as aftershocks struck repeatedly, I finally fell asleep, hugging my cameras. Someone touched me. I immediately thought they might want to steal my cameras but I turned to find an old woman, a woman who had lost everything, covering me with her quilt. She said, “We need to take care of you. You are telling the world the situation in our country. At that moment, I began “Endurance.”
At first, the world was interested and the media published a river of pictures showing the destruction but within weeks other stories took the headlines. Nepal vanished little by little from the news while the Nepali people continued their struggle, fighting as they did from day one, to help each other and rebuild out of the devastation. “Endurance,” tells their story.
The Story Behind "Endurance"
I witnessed the earthquake first hand. I hit the streets of Kathmandu minutes after the first tremor, racing down six flights of stairs with my wife and neighbors. On our way down the walls started to break apart around us. I was filled with fear and had no idea what was happening but, as we emerged onto the street, I felt sure that we were some of the lucky people.
On the streets, the tears of people told me the story. We had been hit by the devastation of mother earth. We tried to call our families and friends to tell them we were alive but minutes after speaking to them, communications went down in Nepal. Just as many people were trying to reach their loved ones, the country was cut off from the outside world.
For days we all slept on the streets, sharing fear but also love and care for each other. As a foreigner living in Nepal, I felt I should give everything I had inside to tell the world what happened. My love for the country, especially for the people, made me push beyond my strength and helped me overcome my fear.
The plight of the Nepali people inspired me, not only to be a better photographer but to ask what I could do to be a better person. I asked myself, “How can they still smile after all that has happened?” I wanted to understand what spirit made this possible, to understand what was behind their resilience and to capture it with my photography.
For several months I traveled around Nepal, a country I loved, discovering stories like Pawn, whose mother hugged and lay over him as the earthquake began. She died but he survived with injuries only to his legs.
From Bhaktapur to Gorkha, from Kathmandu to Sindhupalchowk, everywhere I went, the fight of those who I found impressed me. People were asking me to enter their homes, to share a tea, to pose for photos. “Endurance” little by little became a reality.
Endurance, The Book
A colleague once told me, “If the story is not told, it does not exist.” I want the story of the Nepali people’s response to the earthquake to be remembered. “Endurance” is a humble tribute to and a legacy for those who are working hard to see their nation rise again.
“Endurance” is published as a limited edition of 800 copies produced by FotoEvidence. The book includes 72 black and white photographs shot across Nepal, immediately after the earthquake and in the months following. It is printed in a hardbound edition, measuring 20 x 30 cm.
Film director Bernardo Bertolucci, who used images from “Endurance” for a fundraising campaign in Rome to help Nepal, will write a foreword. Other contributors include South African photographer Gareth Bright, AFP Nepali correspondent Paavan Mathema and Amir Thapa, Senior Program Officer for International Medical Corps Nepal.
Renown around the world for its extraordinary Himalayan landscape, Nepal should really be recognized for its extraordinary people. “Endurance,” tells the story of their resilience, the story of a living spirit that spreads, like the smiles on their faces, over the streets filled with debris and the ruins of their homes.
"This book serves not just as a historical document of the earthquake in Nepal but also as a testament to the courage, hard work and strength of the people of Nepal: to regroup in the face of disaster without self-pity and to get on with life".
Gareth Bright, Freelance South African Photojournalist
Endurance by Omar Havana. ISBN 978-0-9963912-3-8
Copyright 2016 Omar Havana - FotoEvidence. All rights reserved.
Photographs: Omar Havana – Omar Havana/ Getty Images
Text: Bernardo Bertolucci, Paavan Mathema, Amir Thana, Gareth Bright, and Omar Havana
Photo Editor: Régina Monfort / Text Editor: David Stuart, Juliette Rousselot / Design: Bonnie Briant
Photography Post Production: Eduardo Matas / Addretouch Photo Lab
Printed in Istanbul at Ofset Yapimevi