About the original story: Old Soul, New Concrete by Brian Sokol
Over the past few years, Kathmandu has undergone a period of rapid urbanization, however throughout this process it has remained curiously unique in its loyalty to its cultural history. The result is a city in which astrologers are consulted about future developments by retail investors, and concrete high-rise buildings haphazardly wind their way around tiny ancient shrines. It is within this cultural dichotomy that Brian’s series was made; a capital city caught at a crossroads between Nepal’s spiritual past and cosmopolitan future.
“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” – William Faulkner
Brian Sokol, April 2015
“Cities, like the people who inhabit them, are living things. They carry the record of their civilization in the wood, brick and concrete from which they are built. Perhaps nowhere is this encapsulation of the past in the present and future so pronounced as in Kathmandu, greatest city of the Himalayas.
Nepal has always been something of a time warp. Less than a decade ago it became a republic, the end result of a civil war between Maoist guerrillas and a Hindu god king. In his book Kathmandu, author Thomas Bell notes: "The city has been behind the times since the Middle Ages. When temples are rebuilt after an earthquake… old pieces of carved timber might be reused even as the structure is altered and worn out parts replaced. In this way these holy buildings are both old and new.”
In fact it may be wrong to think of time as leaving the past behind. Rather, the past continues to exist in the present and the future. Some of today’s busiest shopping areas are part of the 2,500-year-old Silk Road that was once the main throughway in the region. Temples and palaces that would have become museums in the West continue to be lived, littered and worshiped in. Rather than relics of the past, they remain threads in the densely woven tapestry of Kathmandu's daily life.
While the city's skyline has changed recently, the old ways still infuse the newest edifices. Astrologers are consulted by real estate developers, and entombed within the concrete walls of Kathmandu's monolithic apartment blocks are offerings to Hindu deities.”
Brian Sokol is a US-born photographer dedicated to documenting human rights issues and humanitarian crises worldwide.
A writer by training, he uses words and images to tell the stories of individuals overlooked by the media.
After working as a wilderness ranger and Himalayan guide, he began his photographic career in Nepal, where he learned the language and invested himself deeply in the culture. In 2011 he moved to South Sudan to cover the first two years in the life of the world's newest country from the inside.
He regularly works with UNHCR, UNICEF and other humanitarian organizations to document and raise awareness about global social issues.
Editorial and commercial clients include TIME, The New York Times, The New Yorker, GEO, Stern, Ogilvy & Mather and Philips