Photo.Circle: Create.Share.Learn.

Features Issue 73 Jul, 2010
Text by Ujeena Rana

Photo.Circle is a concept, a group of like-minded photographers, and a physical
 space to create, share and learn. It was begun by three people who set out to organize regular sessions for photo presentation and critique. National, international, amateur and professional photographers representing any area of photography can review their photographs with the Photo.Circle. There are certain expectations, however. Mainly, photo collections submitted for critique should have a theme or narrative; that is, taken together they should tell a story. The photographers are not paid nor do they pay Photo.Circle for the exposure their works receive. Photo.Circle is open to the public and audiences do not have to pay to attend.

Photo.Circle fulfills a need by facilitating aspiring and professional photographers with a platform to exhibit their works apart from those that get published in the newspapers and magazines. It also provides a forum for critique of the art, and for discussing important issues such as copyright, not well covered elsewhere. These are some of the reasons why Photo.Circle was established.

A typical Photo.Circle day
The audiences invited via mail or through word of mouth begin arriving in groups or in twos at the Bakery Café, Sundhara, at the scheduled time—the first Saturday morning of each month. The invitees follow the formalities by entering their basic data in the Photo.Circle’s register. Then, they enter the hall and take a sofa seat or chair, whatever is available. They nod to their acquaintances, smile at others, and chat and exchange pleasantries until the presentation begins.

The moderator is NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati. She typically introduces the day’s presenters, followed by their visual stories projected on a screen. Depending on the theme and inspiration of the photographer, background music may be played. Each photographer explains his or her pictures and shares some anecdotes or observations. This formal presentation is only the beginning, however, for after showing their work, the presenters are subjected to critical remarks and questions from the audience. This is the most interesting part, and also the hard part, especially for those who do not take criticism easily. Nonetheless, it is the expectation of all involved that critical review be part of the Photo.Circle experience. Fortunately, no blood is shed, there is no brawl, and anyone who wants gets to speak up. If the photographer’s point of view is not well understood, or if photographs are misinterpreted, the floor is open for discussion. In the end, the reaction and response a photographer receives is worth the pain of presentation and critique. And, when the discussion is over, there’s always a hot cup of coffee to soften the edge. Coffee time is a regular feature of each session.

Occasionally pictures may be submitted by photographers based on their work in progress. For example, Anita Khemka, a Delhi-based photographer, presented work prepared for UNICEF about children and women and maternal mortality. She has also done assignments on eunuchs and homosexuality in India. In the past, Photo.Circle has also featured various other foreign photographers, including cinematographers, who are visiting or living in Kathmandu. They include Masaru Goto from Japan, Shahidul Alam and Nilayan Dutta from DRIK Picture Library Ltd., Ruth de Vries and Evelien Kunst from the Netherlands-based World Press Photos, as well as American phtographers Grady Walker, John Margoliese, Paula Bronstien from Getty Images and Allison Kwesel from the University of Missouri.

Among the Nepalese photographers who have been featured are Dhruba Ale, Min Bajracharya, Dambar Krishna Shrestha, Bikash Rauniyar, Mani Lama, and Narendra Shrestha, in addition to the group’s founders.

The founders of Photo.Circle are Bhushan Shilpakar (webmaster:, Suraj Shakya (sound and audio arranger), and NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati (moderator; though such definitions are an oversimplification of their multiple roles). These three are, in a word, Photo.Circle personified.

Photographers are busy people, and one wonders where they find the time each month to participate. “We make it a point to make time for Photo.Circle. We’ll even stay till midnight at times. Editing the photos, arranging them, working on the background music for each presentation, inviting participants and audience, and contacting each presenting photographer for captions can be nerve-racking at times,” says Suraj Shakya.

The group’s first Photo.Circle presentation featured two senior Nepalese photographers, Dhruba Ale and Dipendra Bajracharya. “Each of them submitted 150 pictures,” says Suraj. “With so many pictures to edit, and some technical problems, we were a bit overwhelmed. But, it was a learning experience for us and the photographers, alike. We quickly learned the importance of careful editing and what a difference it makes in a presentation.”  Bhushan Shilpakar remembers when the three friends first drew up a list of potential participants to invite—friends, relatives, and casual acquaintances, in order to assure that there would be an audience for the first Photo.Circle event. And, now look how far they have come... All Photo.Circle activities are popular, and well-covered in the local press.

NayanTara will tell you that “Photo.Circle invites ‘experts’ and interested individuals who are able to share their expertise and experience. By facilitating dialogue between editors, designers, reporters and other key actors in the world of publication, Nepal’s Photo.Circle creates an opportunity for photographers to ensure better use of their work once their images leave their hands and enter the larger realm of the industry. More than anything, getting feedback from the audience is constructive for the photographer and for his photography”, she says.

What’s the future of Photo.Circle? Suraj replies that “Photo.Circle is our passion. If we keep it up, this will never end. But,” he goes on, “we need to work on marketing it. We hope that about a year down the line we can raise enough revenue so that it is self-sustained and can run on its own”, he says.

Currently, Prime College, a local school in Naya Bazaar, Sorhakhutte, is Photo.Circle’s sole sponsor. They provide the coffee. The founders have even thought of charging an entrance fee, “but that would change the whole thing”, they say. Candidly they explain that they need to do some income generation activities, like running basic photo workshops, or curating photo exhibitions. For example, the organizers of the ‘Celebrating Womanhood Navadevi Awards’ asked Photo.Circle to curate the photos they had put together reflecting the essence of womanhood for their awards event. “It was a good beginning for us, and over time more assignments of that nature are coming in”, Bhushan says. Meanwhile, their endeavors to provide a critical public platform for photographers to display their work are remarkable.

Some of the regulars attending Photo.Circle events have developed a keen interest in photography. They are especially attracted to the discussion sessions that highlight each meeting. One frequent participant recently purchased a new Canon 400D with which to learn serious photography, and occasionally calls on NayanTara for her technical know-how.

A ‘circle’ of the sort described here is best defined as a group of people who come together around common point of interest, in this case photography. Circles of this sort are continuous units which, despite the youthfulness of the founders and due to their sincere passion for the subject, intend to keep it going long into the future. The radius of such a circle might differ but the concentric lines formed round by those who love to create, share and learn are what drives the Photo.Circle onward.

Come participate at one of their sessions. Photo.Circle meets every first Saturday of the month at the Bakery Café in Sundhara (in the heart of old Kathmandu), beginning at 9am Special sessions are also held at other times to accommodate visiting foreign photographers. When you come, be sure to wear your photo appreciation topi.