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exhibition: project 300

“Lend a moment to your imagination and cast your mind back to your childhood, but replace your suburban surroundings with the Nepalese countryside. Where planned streets and roads are replaced by scarcely scattered buildings and rolling hills, with opportunities for schooling few and far between. Now that your mind has carried you there in thought, open your eyes and continue that spiritual journey with Project 300…

As far back as she can remember, 26 year old Melbournian Aylin Ahmet has had a creative streak. She works in Media/Advertising as a Digital Producer—a job she says she loves—but whenever possible, she takes her first love, her Nikon D90 SLR, out on a mission to find her inspiration and photograph it. This passion for photography and her strong desire to travel and see the world led her to India and the Nepalese countryside, where she taught in their schools, lived with local families and on cool nights, kept herself warm with Nepalese rum (“Strong stuff!”). And, of course, she photographed every moment. The result: thousands of images and now, the opportunity to share them with the public in her hometown.

Lip spoke with the woman behind the lens ahead of her debut exhibition at the Matt Irwin Gallery.

Your debut photography exhibition, Project 300, opens in May – congratulations! Tell me about it; how did it all come about?
Thank you! I’m thrilled about it. Project 300 came about a few months ago. I never imagined that I’d ever exhibit my photographs in an open forum like this. While in Nepal, I had the opportunity to visit and teach at a few rural schools and it touched me immensely. I grew up in a world with an endless supply of school resources and access to the best educational support. Unfortunately for many in the world, access to these things is a luxury. The children at the Chuna Devi Primary School were so playful and kind and they had such contagious laughs. I was in heaven capturing these wonderful memories with my camera. The exhibition showcases life in India and Nepal and focuses on the contrasts between the lives of children living in these countries compared to those living in Western countries like Australia. The money raised from the sale of my images will go directly to the school. I’m just someone trying to make a small difference.

You describe yourself as a passionate, self-taught photographer. Did you just pick up a camera and give it a shot?
As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a creative side—my parents can probably vouch for this! I remember my first camera so clearly and whenever I’d take a picture, I’d try a different angle or run up to the person in the photo and fix their hair or top before taking the image (Photographer in the making or what?!) Over three years ago, I lost a dear friend to suicide. It really shook me up and I realised that to live a happy and fulfilled life, we have to do the things that sustain us and keep us happy. That day, I went out and bought my first Nikon SLR. I’ve pursued my passion for photography ever since.

What inspires you and your work?
People and culture inspire me. We’re surrounded by so many fascinating people who have great stories to tell. I look for inspiration in people. I read a heap of blogs and books and in my travels I meet interesting individuals who get me thinking about potential shoot ideas.

Your main focus is on Nepal. What is it about Nepal and the Nepalese people that you fell in love with?
Nepal is a beautiful place, filled with many spiritual and historical monuments and places. The Nepalese people were so friendly and they welcomed me into their homes and families; they’re such generous people. [In Nepal], happiness doesn’t come from buying the latest gadgets or toys. Living without these things for a while really helped [me] put things into perspective.

How did you select the photos you’ve included in the exhibition?
I took over 7000 photos during my time overseas, and I’ve had to condense this number to 35—it’s been a difficult journey! I definitely have my favourites; those images that tell a story when you immediately look at them. Most of my favourites are images of people. Thankfully I have a few very patient and helpful photographer friends who have helped me select the most unique images for the exhibition.

What are you hoping to achieve with Project 300?
My objective is to raise money from the sale of my photographs to send back supplies to the children at Chuna Devi Primary school so of course, I’d like to raise a crazy amount of money for the kids. But more than dollars, I would feel a sense of satisfaction simply by convincing even just one person out there to embrace their travel experience and do something altruistic.

If you could do anything in the world, aside from photography, what would it be?
Good question and I’ve had a think about it but unsurprisingly, everything I dream of doing in this world involves my camera, so definitely a job that allows me to travel and take photographs.

Project 300 opens on Friday 11th May at 6pm at the Matt Irwin Gallery in Melbourne and runs until Friday 18th May. More information available at www.aylinahmet.com  and on facebook.

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