Amul Thapa, 27, grew up at SOS Children’s Village Kavre in Nepal. A photojournalist for one of the leading daily newspapers in Nepal, Amul was recently recognized by the Nepalese government for his work in documenting the earthquake and recovery efforts. Amul is also a Hilton Prize Coalition fellow.
We recently asked Amul to reflect on his experience during the earthquake, both as a photojournalist and as a citizen of Nepal.
Where were you a year ago when the earthquake struck?
I was in my office at Kathmandu Today
editing photographs for a news story. My colleagues and I were on the third floor of the 7-story building. Suddenly there was a tremor. I went under the computer table as we were taught in school. After few seconds it stopped. I ran downstairs and everyone outside was looking at us in surprise. They couldn’t believe we were alive because our office complex was shaking.
I then ran to the Dharahara tower [a historic landmark]. I could see the dust all around me, people crying everywhere. There were dead bodies all around. The tower was in ruins. I tried to take a few pictures. In this way, I was going [to] my job. But being human, I along with other photojournalists put down our cameras and volunteered to help people.
Your photograph of a rescued child, covered in dust but safe, was published in major news outlets around the world. Tell us how you captured that moment.
Amul's photograph of a baby boy rescued from a collapsed home was republished by leading news organizations around the world.
On the morning after the earthquake, I went to the site of a collapsed home where Nepali soldiers were trying to save a trapped boy named Sonish Awal. They could hear the child but [could] not find him. I asked if I could help, and I directed traffic and asked people not to make noise so that the soldiers could hear the baby crying to make it easier to find him.
It was amazing that Sonish was rescued. It was 10 a.m., and I had been there five hours. I was able to capture some beautiful photographs of Sonish when a soldier held him up in the sky. Everyone was clapping. That very moment, I turned to the boy’s family. His mother was crying, and I captured that on my camera. That brought my story to life. I was able to tell the whole story of the child and the family to the entire world through my photographs.
When Sonish was handed over to his mother, it was totally emotional. I decided not to follow them because I felt that they really needed some time to spend with each other, and I was not going to interfere for my own profit.
See how baby Sonish is doing, one year later.
What made you interested in photojournalism?
From my childhood, I was interested in playing sports and while participating, I happened to meet journalists who were covering the games. I just enjoyed talking to them, and I found their job interesting, so I decided at grade nine to get into news media as a career. After the final high school exam, SOS Children’s Villages organized a career counselling class that paved the way for me to go into journalism. I completed my bachelor in journalism and I am studying for a master’s degree.
Along with my studies, I work as a photojournalist for the Naya Patrika
. I love hearing people’s stories and sharing stories about them. I find photography the best way of sharing these stories.
Tell us about your experience growing up at the SOS Children’s Village Kavre.
I felt that I had a rebirth after the great tragedy of losing my mother at age nine. I remember the love and care of my SOS Mother and nine siblings. My SOS Mother always stood next to me, encouraged me to correct any wrongdoing, and motivated me. She was the person behind my success. I still remember her words: “Whatever you do, give 100 percent. Believe in yourself.”
SOS Kavre was heaven on Earth. My success today is because of SOS. To this day, I feel fortunate to have grown up at SOS Kavre.
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