through the photographer's lens: 'polaroids from kathmandu' by mike schreiber

February 01, 2019

A few years back, we caught up with photographer Mike Schreiber for our “Through the Photographer’s Lens” series.

Widely known for his intimate portraits of rap artists, Mike has been dubbed “Hip-Hop's Illest Photographer“ (Vice). In 2010, the New York-based self-taught photographer has also published his first book, True Hip-Hop, which features pictures of Mos Def, Eminem and many others.

But it’s clear that the real interest of the Anthropology-graduate lies in humans, whether they’re hip-hop elites or children in Cuba or locals in Nepal, who became the main characters of his “Polaroids from Kathmandu” photo series.

To Globetrotter, Mike shared selected shots from the series and some anecdotes from his trip to the country.


“I recently spent  a month in Nepal. For the first two weeks of the trip, I was with a group called the Big Bang Ballers. They use basketball to fight youth poverty and social disadvantage around the world,

“The rest of the trip, I bounced around Pokhara and Kathmandu,

“When I travel, it's always hard for me to decide which cameras to bring. I'm aware that it would be much easier for me if I got a digital SLR with a zoom lens and a few memory cards, but I'm stubborn and I prefer shooting film, so I travel with a few cameras and TONS of film! This makes traveling more difficult, but ultimately, more rewarding for me. I just love looking at contact sheets!

“So, for this trip, I decided it would be a great idea to bring my big old Polaroid Land Camera with six or seven packs of film (along with a few other cameras). I'd planned to do a daily journal, taking a Polaroid every day. The problem with this plan was that I'm not really the "journaling" type, and the Land Camera is so bulky and heavy that I didn't even take it out of my bag for the first three-and-a-half weeks I was in Nepal,

“It wasn't until I was alone in Kathmandu that I decided to take the Polaroid out. With two days left, I decided that it would be my main camera as I explored the city on foot. Just walking around with that big old thing on my neck made me a curiosity with both the locals and tourists alike. It's a great conversation starter!

“The beautiful thing about a camera like that is that it makes people stop. Some can't believe it actually works. Many want to get their picture taken and crowds tend to gather while you wait for the picture to develop. It's a great opportunity to talk to people and feel more a part of the surroundings, instead of just taking a picture and moving on to the next one. The Polaroid forces you to stop ad engage a bit. Also, I let little kids and old men pull the Polaroids and it turned into a group effort, with everyone passing the pictures around and smiling and laughing. It really made for a more rewarding and colorful experience for me,

“There's definitely something special about film, but there's something EXTRA special about Polaroids. To me, it really is magic, and seeing the looks of wonder on people's faces (both young and old) when they pull the Polaroid and see their image appear is priceless!”

The article first appeared on Issue 2 of our print edition.