When Artem Zhushman arrived in Nepal, he felt like a blank page. It was his first time in the country, and he knew little about the way of life there. He didn’t even know the language. How could he hope to learn from the local people given the cultural chasm that existed between them?
Luckily, Artem had one item in his suitcase to help bridge that gap — his camera. A professional travel photographer, Artem describes his camera as a “feeler,” a device that helps him “touch the world” around him. When immersed in foreign environments, he looks down his viewfinder in order to comprehend his new surroundings, to be more tolerant of what he struggles to understand, and to tell a greater story.
Regardless of the language they speak, everyone craves a good story.
In Nepal, Artem set off along the Tamang Heritage Trail en route to Langtang, an area in central Nepal just north of Kathmandu. The trail is home to the Tamang people, local Buddhists who live in remote villages comprised of stone huts. They subsist off the land, making a living through farming and hosting migrant trekkers.
When he first arrived in one of the Tamang villages, Artem was immediately struck by their hospitality. They may not have been able to exchange even a single word with him, but the Tamang people greeted him with smiles and generosity, inviting him inside to warm up with food and a steaming cup of tea.
He understood that tourism comprised a main portion of their income, but this was something more than a simple transaction. He wasn’t a customer. He wasn’t even a tourist. He was a guest — a very welcome guest.
Artem pulled his camera out and was happy to learn that the Tamang were open to having their portraits taken. They stared deeply into the camera with intense resolve as well as laughter, each click of the shutter capturing years of happiness and compassion. Without a word, they taught Artem to take comfort in the simplicity of the world, to respect the diversity among the unfamiliar, to welcome others into your life, and to find beauty in the unknown. Artem decided to pass that message on the only way he knew how.
Though Artem is quick and eager to answer any question about his time in Nepal, he pauses when asked a relatively simple one: “Why do you travel?”
After some thought, he answers: “Well, I travel because I started to travel. And I don’t know how to stop.”
It’s the same reason he continually turns to his camera while he’s on the move. Travel and photography help him understand the often baffling societies around him. They’re his most effective methods for interacting with the world, and with the people therein.
In Nepal, there was only one way to reach the end of a trail, and eventually it was time for Artem to leave the Tamang villages. Before leaving, he expressed his thanks and turned his camera back for one last photo.