Freelancer covering Nepal
The Danish freelance
photojournalist Morten Svenningsen
has been covering news and events in Nepal since 2005. He
is now well immersed in Nepali affairs and even understands
the language fairly well, at the same time being sensitive
the needs and requirements of publications in 'the West'. He
is available for jobs in fields such as news, editorial,
development, human interest, travel, culture and
by Morten Svenningsen
Kathmandu, 1. June '007
In a completely unbiased
interview with myself, I try to explore the fascinating
aspects about being a freelance photographer and journalist
in a 'third-world' country. I was born in Århus, Denmark in
1974, received my journalism training in Copenhagen Media
School and hold a bachelor degree in science. I have also
studied psychology. I now live in Kathmandu with my Nepalese
wife, Sabina, and our dog, Charlie.
Why did you come to Nepal?
I was working in India at the time, but when I kept hearing
about what was going on up her, I decided to come up and
have a look. There were a lot of political unrest back then.
And as things worked out, I'm still here. I find it all
What do you find most interesting about Nepal?
Well, it's not just one thing. Rather the opposite in fact.
The diversity is enormous here, the mix between modernity
and traditionalism, and when I wake up, I never know what
will happen today. It gives me a profound sense of freedom.
I like that.
How do you like living in a 'third-world country'?
Oh, I like it. It's cheap. And the existence is more raw
here, which makes me feel more alive. Back in Denmark,
everything is so comfortable and safe that it's easy to get
caught up in just accumulating your own wealth. Then you
easily forget about what really matters in life. Of course
there's also a lot of problems here. Half the things don't
work half the time and it's frustrating sometimes to hear
about people suffering because of something that could
easily have been avoided.
So is that why you decided to be a photo-journalist?
In a way, yes, I suppose. I am not out on a holy mission to
change the world and the way we think, but I would like to
help people and give them a mutual understanding of each
other across all the cultural barriers of this world that we
share. That's a part of it. But looking back on my life, I
can see that I've always been trying to get to the truth of
things. Be it through science, psychology, spiritualism,
deep analysis or now journalism.
What is your religion?
I am not religious. I don't want to be guessing about things
that I don't know.
Ok, so what things inspire you?
Just reading the newspapers here always fills me with ideas
I want to follow up on. Walking around in the city, talking
to different people and looking on the internet also gives
me ideas. And maybe this would be a good spot to mention the
lyrics of Bob Dylan as well.
What do you like most about your job?
Well, I get to meet all sorts of people and be in the middle
of interesting events. That's exciting. And I've always
liked writing and expressing my thoughts and observations.
And then there is the photography part of it as well. For me
this is exactly the right combination of art and technology.
A perfect tool for giving the truth an artistic form. But
even when I'm not working, I always carry my camera. I love
the hunt for that perfect shot where all the elements
combine together into a great image.
Aren't photographers just hiding behind their camera in
stead of taking active part in the world?
All I'll say is that for me, photography is a way to take
part in the world.
So, do you earn a lot of money doing that?
No, not a lot. But I only work when I want to, and I'm free
to do whatever I want, whenever I want. That's worth a lot
to me. But I do hope to make it into more of a steady income
How do you see Nepal being pictured in the foreign media?
For the most part, it is my impression that foreign media
don't really care all that much about what's happening in
Nepal - except for a few things like Mt. Everest and the
Maoists. But unfortunately, that's how things work today: No
celebrity, no story. It's a shame because Nepal is such an
amazing country with a wealth of nature, culture and human
and political intrigues. And there are lots of people
sitting around the world who has some relation to or
interest in Nepal. Former development workers, tourists,
officials and Nepalese immigrants to mention a few
(millions). The press is missing out on these people.
Ok, thank you for taking the time for this interview.
The pleasure was all mine!