Can you imagine losing everything you have, except for hope? Can you imagine being totally alone and lost, but not losing your ability to love? I could never have imagined that even one of those scenarios were possible-- until I traveled to Nepal in April of last year, after the horrible earthquake. I encountered people on this trip who have experienced more than I ever have. I met people who had been living in absolute poverty for many, many years, but who lost everything after the earthquake; their homes, their lives. I also met children who lost their parents. Mothers and fathers who lost their sons and daughters. People who lost their brothers, their sisters. They lost everything that made life worth living.
These encounters were learning opportunities for me, because I gained a much better understanding of what real suffering looks like, and what true loss actually means. And I started looking at my daily life with more perspective.
I finally understood the meaning of real hope and real happiness. One would expect that anyone living under such circumstances must be extremely unhappy, right? But everyone I photographed was friendly, hopeful and positive. They showed me things I had not previously encountered in my privileged life.
I was moved by their stories as well as by their hopeful faces. With my photo project, Faces of Nepal, I am hoping to capture and transmit a different view of life, hope, and love.
I see the pain that the world has imposed on you. But at the same time, there's more hiding behind those eyes. Love for me, love for life.
I meet you in Sindhupalchok. No other region in Nepal was as heavily damaged by the earthquake. On the way to you I drive through villages leveled completely to the ground. Your family, like many others, lives in a tent.
I arrive in your village to distribute food. Children and adults rush towards me, pull the bags right out of my hands. But you don't move; you're silent, you just stare at me intently.
You came here from the mountains, and now you live under a plastic tarp, supported only by a few thin branches. You're alone, you've lost everything and everyone.
I didn't bring you much, did I? Four notebooks and two pens. What does that even amount to, I ask myself. But your eyes shine with excitement. You look at me happily and gratefully.
All I gave you was a little attention. In exchange, you told me much more about life than you will ever know.
I look at you. Slowly, you lift your head up and look at me. You look overwhelmed, because you've lost everything. That's the one story your eyes tell me. But it's not just a story of loss. You've lost your kingdom, true, but not your grace, you dignity, or your pride.
More information on Faces of Nepal can be found here.
This post first appeared on HuffPost Germany. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.