The Photo That Helped Me See

Photo by Dendi Sherpa
Photo by Dendi Sherpa

One moment captured within the works of a photojournalist’s camera can impact and even change the world. Who can’t pinpoint at least one unforgettable news photo?

When I asked myself that question, I listed several, and each one focused on a child. And recently, a child’s photo, captured by Dendi Sherpa, who works for a Kathmandu, Nepal publication, added to my already out of control To-Do list.

But first, let me explain how a photo from Nepal impacted me. In August I spent some precious time with my beautiful grandchildren. My 5-year-old granddaughter is a natural beauty, just like the approximate 5-year-old girl who Dendi Sherpa photographed and posted on his Facebook page.

While of a different culture, this particular child’s gaze parallels that of my granddaughter. Stunning. Expressive. Compelling. But it is easy to lose those adjectives when allowing one’s eyes to accept the fact that this absolutely beautiful child in a dress and matching shoes, is draped in rags, not a dress. Miles apart from fashionable torn jeans for the West’s wealthy fashionistas, the ragged and torn dress covering this child completely juxtaposes her beauty.

This Nepali photographer told the story in one photo. He did his job. His photo impacted and haunted me. How could it be fair that my grandchildren could be so beautifully clothed while the young girl in the mountains of Nepal wears rags?

I don’t fully understand Nepal’s culture and social strata, but to me, almost every little girl loves to wear a beautiful dress. She knows when she is the Cinderella of the disenfranchised, and not the Cinderella of royalty. But a beautiful dress can bring her dreams. A beautiful dress can spin her in joyous dance. A beautiful dress can maybe change her world.

Dendi’s photo stuck in my head, like a song worm. It followed me to bed. But as the night sky lost its twilight sparkle and turned into the pink and yellow glow of sunrise, it came to me: Get beautiful clothes for this child and the children like her.

I have more time than money. I’ve taken this path before after meeting children in a Mississippi work camp. So I reached out to the grandmothers, my daughter, my kind friends. I queried my few Nepali friends. Consequently, we shipped five very heavy boxes of quality clothes, and many beautiful dresses for little girls, to Nepal—in time for the national celebration of Dashain—a time when children wear new clothes.

This story isn’t about me, other than I do feel an urgent need to add acts of kindness to our world at this moment, but it is about the power of a photo. American photographer, Berenice Abbott, said it best, “Photography helps people to see.” Dendi Sherpa’s photograph helped me see a need.

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