Omar Havana is a freelance photojournalist based in Cambodia. He lived in Nepal from 2014 to 2015. Omar recently published his first photography book ‘Endurance’ as a tribute to the people of Nepal after the terrible earthquakes of 2015. He presented his photography book ‘Endurance’ on March 16 to Nepal, as a part of the Kathmandu Triennial.
Here in conversation with Republica’s Prasansha Rimal, Omar talks about his experience during the earthquakes and his book ‘Endurance’.
What was your experience during the earthquake?
I was at home, sleeping. Suddenly everything started shaking, and I thought it was my wife kicking the bed. I was disoriented and didn’t realize that it was earthquake till then. After we came out to the street, I realized something big had happened.
When did you realize that you needed to start taking photographs?
As soon it happened. It is an instinct of a photographer to document events.
Had you worked in a disaster affected countries before Nepal?
I had documented hurricanes, floods and war before but documenting earthquake was my first time. The difference in Nepal is the Nepali people. In other countries when disaster strikes people are scared and start crying. But here in Nepal, people fight back. They don’t look at the damage but focus on how it can be fixed.
Was it difficult for you take permission to take photographs with governmental officials in Nepal ?
It is difficult for foreign journalists and photographers to documents events that take place here because there is too much political interference. Laws here are too old. To renew press visa you need to fill documents time and again. But as a foreigner, I can’t complain instead Nepali photographers and journalists should be given equal opportunity and pay as other international journalists and photographers.
What impact are you trying to create through your book ‘Endurance’?
I don’t know if I can create an impact but after few weeks post- earthquake in Nepal all the international media left. The only thing I can do as an international journalist is that I can go from country to country and tell people that Nepal still exists and it needs support. But in Nepal I can’t create an impact because it’s the story of Nepali people. This book is made in Nepal and is for Nepali people.
What was your objective behind documenting stories here in Nepal?
My only purpose was to tell international media that they are wrong. There is still an interesting story in Nepal. No one cared about the struggle and fight of the country. The fight after the earthquake was the most beautiful story for me because the whole country was together and that’s how a country or a family should work. I was trying to understand the strength of Nepali people through my photographs.