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Portrait photographer Jesse Dittmar’s life-changing trip to Nepal

In a normal working week New York City-based portrait/advertising/editorial photographer Jesse Dittmar would be planning studio sessions with an assortment of stars like Tom Hanks, Sting, Al Green and Ed Sheeran.


But on a recent trip to Nepal he found himself taking pictures of six year old village girl Anshu; labourers Raja and Sanbram, teachers Rudra, Asmikta and Khima (who are used to teaching every day in a mud hut) Tekraj, a yogi who taught him that if you genuinely laugh people want to join in too – oh and teenagers like Fabian, a boy from The Bronx who flew in to help in a mission to break the cycle of poverty and build schools in far-flung corners of the globe.

Jesse explains: “Last year international not-for-profit organisation buildOn tasked me with travelling to Nepal to capture the buildOn Trek experience, which is to build a school in a village where no proper school existed. This year I’ve been doing it all again, after the entire country has been rebuilding both physically and emotionally, following the massive earthquake last year.”


Jesse travelled with twenty high school students (like Fabian) from The Bronx and Detroit.

He adds: “Many of these kids have never even been on a plane, let alone across the world. We all stayed in the village and worked with local people where the new school is being built.”

On this trip Jesse was armed with a Hasselblad CFV-50c digital back to record the school project’s progress.


He says: “It has been an overwhelming success all round and the CFV-50c helped me bring it all to life. Local children are affected by this momentous change, the villagers who helped build this school, the American high school students who experienced a profound transformation throughout this process, the buildOn American and local Nepalistaff, and many other faces that have been witness to these events.”


He adds: “The input and energy from the American students was immense. At one point Fabian (pictured with a spade in his hand alongside two local teenagers) was working hard but felt sick and wanted to stop. He asked the Nepalese kid next to him if he was tired. But the boy pointed to the little children and said he wasn’t tired and we all had to keep digging so these kids can go to a proper school – not the mud hut they have been used to. Fabian said: “Suddenly I wasn’t tired no more.”

‘Hasselblad is my favourite camera experience. I’ll be using it for life’:

Jesse has been a Hasselblad user since he was a teenager when he bought a 500C. It’s still in his inventory today and ‘TWO’ – his first acclaimed book of celebrity portraits was shot almost exclusively with that camera. But for his buildOn Trek experience he used a CFV-50c (on a 503C body) with angled prism and 50mm,80mm and 120mm lenses.

He says: “I wanted to use the CFV-50C because it allowed me to seamlessly integrate my previous film based workflow, with a camera that I felt very comfortable with, into the digital sphere. Using the CFV-50C allowed me to travel to a remote region of the world without hundreds of rolls of film and without sacrificing image quality. I consistently used a range of ISO settings to allowed me to adapt to the lighting scenarios the field brought at me. I found the sensor to excel at any range of ISO, shutter and aperture settings necessary for my shot.”

Build_On_Nepal_04Adds Jesse: “I was shooting in many locations, in a remote village, with only natural lighting. So I needed equipment that could adapt to the wildly changing lighting variables and the CFV-50C did just that. I needed this camera for its sharpness and image size too. You can zoom in on many of those portraits and even see the tiny veins in my subjects’ eyes. I was enthralled with the quality. “

Jesse spent two weeks in the village of Bhagatpur, where the new school is being built. “It was a life changing experience, certainly. Seeing a village, and living with the people, who are in the midst of changing their lives is something special. Being able to document it is a privilege. Using Hasselblad to help tell that story was essential. “


If you are looking to invest in a Hasselblad CFV-50c digital back it is currently available for a special promotion – Learn more here

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