Andy Anderson Highlights the Sherpa People from 17,598 feet
Andy Anderson’s unyielding curiosity has taken him from Alaska to photograph wild grizzly bears, to Argentina to capture the soul of gauchos, to the south side of Chicago to work with rehabilitated gang members and many places in between. Most recently, it took Andy to Nepal to photograph and interview the often overlooked Sherpa people.
In fact, most people outside of Nepal do not know that the Sherpa people are a cultural group, of which the name has been associated with their job rather than their history and heritage. After reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Mattheiessen in the 70s, Andy committed himself to traveling to the region at some point in his life to learn more about the symbiotic relationship between the snow leopard and the Sherpa.
Delayed by COVID, Andy finally made it to Nepal in April of 2022. Traveling to Everest Base Camp, as summit season was in full swing, he spoke with Sherpas and mountaineers and his perspective along with the scope of his project changed. He decided to highlight the lives of the Sherpas, whose job it is to carry most of the gear and risk their lives to allow others to summit the mountain. Everest is a religious element to Sherpas and not something taken lightly. Leaving their family for months at a time, with the potential to not come back resonated with Andy, so this project is to honor their culture, tradition, lives and families.
"One of the most powerful moments of my trip was being a part of the Puja ceremony. Translating to 'right of passage' this ceremony is performed to make contact with Buddhist divine entities, including Mount Everest its self, and to pray for a safe expedition. This takes place once the sherpas are at base camp, so is a ceremony performed by the families left behind. I felt so honored to to be invited, as it is a very personal event. I left my camera outside to preserve that and to honor the tradition. It hit home to me, that the Sherpa experience is not just about the men who summit Everest upwards of 30 times each season, but the families who remain in their villages, worried about the safety of their sons, husbands and fathers. As much as this project is about the journey of the Sherpa, it is about the journey of their families." - Andy Anderson
To learn more about Andy’s trip and project, read Anne Telford's write up here.
And to learn more about the Sherpa, Anderson recommends the 2015 documentary Sherpa, by Australian filmmaker Jennifer Peedom who had planned to follow an expedition to the summit, but instead captured the 2014 ice avalanche that killed 16 Sherpa and three others and its aftermath.