Behind the lens with photographer Emory Hall

This month, Emory Hall debuts her first Boulder show, “Stories from a Mountain Kingdom: A Photo Exhibit of Nepal,” in The AKA Gallery and Wonder. The show opens November 3rd from 6-9 p.m. in The AKA Gallery in The Boulder Creative Collective warehouse and runs through January 2019. A colorful collection of tales from her travels, her images offer an intimate connection to the East.

Here, she lets you in on her journey…

What all led up to this project?
It’s actually been almost a decade in the making. I did my first year of college at CU, took a year off, and ended up going to Nepal through a program called “Where There Be Dragons.” I flew back to the States after spending a semester there and immediately turned around and got back on a plane. It just totally stole my heart.

What about Nepal do you feel so connected to?
It’s the people that keeping bringing me back. The spirit of the people was something that I hadn’t really found before in my life, and it amazed me–that way of life, that way of being a human–it’s just so vastly different there, and it shocked me and made me think about the way I live my life. 

It’s clearly a very personal place to you. For those who haven’t experienced it in the way you have, what do you hope they can take away from your photos?
I almost always pair my photography with writing, my other great passion…I think that it helps take the viewer on a deeper journey. Maybe that photo is just a picture of a man, but when you read the story behind it, you come to learn that it was the first photograph ever taken of this man and that he’d never seen a camera before.
Whatever people want to take from it, I’m happy…This show is my ode to Nepal—it’s my reverence of that culture and those people.

Let’s talk about your process. You mentioned there was a man who had never seen a camera before. How do you overcome those social barriers?
I always ask before I take a photo…I generally connect with the person before I take their picture, and I navigate it all by feeling. Some people I choose to just have that experience with them and walk away without a photo of them, and other times, we get into this beautiful thing of me taking their picture and then showing them. It just depends.
One thing that is really important to me is to bring the photos back to these people, which can be really difficult in one of the most remote countries in the world. I’ve gone to multiple villages and walked back in with just a plastic bag of printed photos, hoping to find that person—sometimes even five years later.

That’s a big difference from our culture, which has smartphones and social media filled with pictures of themselves. What was it like to see someone have such an emotional reaction to your photo?
You realize how quickly everything happens here. Things are so instantaneous, we don’t even think about it. I remember one time I went back to a village in Nepal that I had stayed in five years prior. I arrived at the house I had stayed in to find that it had been demolished by an earthquake. Not only that, but the mother I stayed with hadn’t seen her husband in two years because he was working in Dubai. And she just burst into tears seeing the photos I took of her and her husband in a house that was now gone. In that moment, you can really see the power of photography…Here, in the Instagram world, you can so easily miss it.

What is your favorite photo in this exhibit?
There’s one from last summer that I took of all the shamans. They are all dancing at a spot that we arrived at during our pilgrimage to take rest. It’s a black-and-white image, and it’s going to be one of the biggest images of the show–it’s over five feet wide. There’s so much emotion in their faces, their robes, the bells–I really can’t wait to show that one.

What else should Boulder know about you?
This is home now, and I’m hungry to step into the art scene here, meet other artists, and share my work, my art, and my love—whatever I can—with the community. 

The Boulder Creative Collective is located at 2500 47th St. #10.