Nina & Tara: Tale Of Two Sisters

April 14, 2014 , by Pragya Thapaliya, Leave your thoughts
Nina & Tara: Tale Of Two Sisters » My Dreams Mag
 They grew up together in the same house, playing and sometimes fighting. They not only shared stories they wouldn’t share with anyone else, but also shared a zeal and passion for creativity and a way of working magic through their lenses. They are Manandhar sisters. 


Born and raised in UK, Nina and Tara Manandhar have been enriching the world with their artistic creations, whether it is through photography or movie making. Nina, the elder of the pair, is a photographer and Pop Ethnographer. She captures people in her screen and shares their stories, not larger-than-life but ordinary stories of ordinary people. Her portraiture of London street life is one of the striking features of her photographs. Nina also released her first photobook “Money On My Oyster” last year. Tara, the younger sister, is a video artist. She makes films about a wide array of subjects; whether it be slam poetry, female rappers in London or farm lives. Her projects like ‘Top Ten Ldn’ have been aired in film festivals like Sheffield DocFest and Edinburgh International Film Festival.

DREAMS caught up with the sisters to talk about their perception of their respective fields, their ongoing and future endeavours, and their sisterhood.



Tara Manandhar

What triggered the thought of filmmaking?

I was inspired to document the world around me because its beauty seemed to be ignored in mainstream press. Making documentaries appealed because to me since it’s sort of halfway between poetry and photography. It is a great way of connecting with people. I love to interview people, it’s like I’m digging and asking questions, looking for insights, wisdom, the answers.


Each film says a unique story. But is there a common purpose that influences your video themes?

I want to show diverse people, cultures and lifestyles. I want to make films that are experimental in their shape and form in order to tell stories in all their complicated glory. And to challenge the notion of ‘truth’ and objectivity in any documentary form.


How do you generate ideas for the themes of your projects?

My ideas usually come from problems, and making a film is like problem solving. So I tune into my gut feeling or emotion, and it’s like a journey trying to find the answers. Either that or I just go for a walk. Seeing people out in the street inspires an idea. Having a chat with people, asking questions, everyone has got an interesting tale to tell, you just got to ask!



What are your plans in the near future? Anything on Nepali society?

One day I would love to film in Nepal. I always wanted to explore the culture of the Gurkhas fighting in the British Army. It’s hard because I don’t speak Nepali or Newari, I need to learn! Hopefully in the UK I will work on some projects about the Nepali community with one of my favourite film-maker friends Asmita Shrish.


Do you think your film has made an impact for the greater good or affected the lives of people in some way?

That was always my intention, but the impact has been very abstract and not overt! They say ‘beauty is the sharpest tool in the box’. I wanted to create beautiful positive images which inspire people to be more positive about and better connected to their realities.


What factor in each enshrouded story makes you uncover it for the rest of the world to see?

I guess I want to uncover things about life that maybe people don’t notice all the time. In Top Ten Ldn, I was trying to highlight the subjective nature of any Top Ten. In the previous films I wanted to question things people take for granted, like why they support the football team they do, or why they don’t roller-skate in their local shopping mall more often.


You and your sister are both involved in creative fields. How do you inspire each other?

If it weren’t for Nina’s influence, I probably would be a veterinary surgeon or a footballer, those were my ambitions when I was younger! She’s my older sis and she is very inspiring. She always makes me challenge my approach, my perception of the world, makes me think how can I work better, think bigger? And she’s just casual about all these cool things she’s done, like start her own company and self publish her book. Casual. I’m not sure I inspire her so much as help her talk through stuff sometimes!!


What are your DREAMS?

Strangely, now a part of my dream is to accept my reality. To be in the present and not fuss over the future all the time! Aside from all that nonsense though, I would love to continue to create what my dad describes as “REAL life changing moving images”, connect multiple corners of the world, and just chill out and enjoy it.


To watch Tara’s short films and documentaries: Click Here






Nina Manandhar

What does the term “Pop Ethnographer mean to you?

I’m not quite sure what it means … I made it up. I like to immerse myself in other people’s worlds and almost become invisible in the process of documenting them. I guess a lot of ethnography is people going to far off countries to investigate disappearing tribes. But I’m more interested in contemporary city life, so it’s more ‘pop’ than ‘world’. I like documentary because I’m really curious about other people and how they live their lives, and it’s an honour to be allowed to glimpse into their worlds.


What triggered the thought of photographing people?
I’m drawn to characters and style. I like to engage with the people I photograph and I like the way style can convey what’s going on inside.


Is there a bigger picture that you are trying to paint with these images? If yes, how do these individual fabrics of photographs help form the larger tapestry?
I am interested in how people create belonging through their style and fashions, and the rituals that accompany these. I like looking at social patterns and the way people form communities and build their identities.


UK has become a melting pot of culture. Do your photographs portray this diversity?
I hope that my photographs show the hybrids that have come out of this melting pot, and how people fuse influences from their heritage. As a half Nepali and half English woman, I am a hybrid myself.


Why the name “Money on my oyster” for your first hardcopy compilation of photographs? 
The book is all about my travels around London. Some photographers feel like they need to go somewhere exotic to get good pictures, but I’m most interested in finding new things close to home. 


Do you think you have made an impact on people’s lives through your photography? 
I hope they present a celebratory positive image of people in years to come, so they will make an impact in that way.


The most common subjects of your photographs are common people. What is so uncommon about them that make you choose them specifically for the photograph?
I like the stories of ordinary people, real life is sometimes stranger than fiction, as they say.


What are your plans in the near future? Any upcoming projects? Do you have any plans of reflecting Nepali society through your photography?
I am going to Dakkar in Senegal to work with an organisation called Les Petites Pierres to do a project about young Heroes later this month. I would love to do a project in Kathmandu one day. I was there for Tihar last year and it was really inspiring, I love the colours and festival atmosphere.


You and your sister are both involved in creative fields. How do you inspire each other?

I think we have both inherited creative genes and drive from our parents!

She has a much stronger understanding of narrative than me, and I find her way of using moving images as a way of telling stories really inspiring. She has excellent taste in film and often recommends movies to me.


What are your DREAMS? 
The dream is to be able to fulfill my creative ambitions but also be within a network of good friends, family and people I care about.


The prolific sisters have been trying to illustrate the world in a different light. The mimesis, reflections and the expressions that they are trying to depict are very interesting. They will catch your eye, leave you with a feeling of awe, and a craving for more.


To view Nina’s works: Click Here


Text by: Pragya Thapaliya

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