Alisha Sett is a writer from Bombay. She is currently pursuing an MA History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She received an Inlaks Shivdasani scholarship for 2017-2018 to pursue her postgraduate education and research on the history of documentary photography and photographic archives in South Asia. She co-founded the Kashmir Photo Collective in 2014; a digital photo archive preserving images across the Kashmir Valley. She was awarded an Edmond J. Safra Network Fellowship by Harvard University for 2013- 2014 for her work in Kashmir. She holds a BA in Political Science and English Literature from Tufts University where she was also a student of the Program in Narrative and Documentary Practice.
This is a short history of the Nepal Picture Library (NPL), Nepal’s first large-scale digital photo archive encompassing over 50,000 photographs collected in less than a decade. It is a rare institution; a catalogued visual resource open to the public with scores of intimate family collections, the historic and the mundane captured over decades by photojournalists, and portraits made in photo studios across the country. The essay provides insight into the strength, scope and potential of this community-created archive. Founded and managed by Photo Circle, a platform for photography in Kathmandu, NPL has published books, done several exhibitions in museums and public spaces across Nepal, and exhibited their collections internationally. Tracing the origins and the impact of NPL through a series of interviews, the essays reveals not only the transformative power of their methods of public engagement but also the deep concern for visual culture fostered in their volunteers particularly among photographers serving as amateur archivists.