Monk-ey Business

03.08.11 | 1 Comment

Buddhist monks have always fascinated me. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the peace that they seem to project. Maybe it’s their bright orange robe and their shaved heads that provides such a visual contrast to all of the world that’s around them, whether it’s old or new. They embody such a strong aesthetic, exotic image to our western eyes that it’s hard to resist the temptation of snapping shots of them. They get their picture taken all the time. It’s not illegal or anything, but is it ok with them, or insanely annoying? Do they happily play the game or does it take a lot of monk wisdom not to feel like they’re curious zoo animals?

For example, was this one posing for the tourists? Or was he just being a monk, in a moment of contemplation in the biggest temple in Cambodia: Angkor Wat. I wonder.

Of course I am the first person to want to take millions of photos of them, because, like all westerners, I find them incredibly photogenic and representative of our mental image of the far East. Isn’t it fun to catch a monk snapping a photo with his camera-phone? Monks use technology too!

A funny thing happened after I took this shot (discretely, I thought): the monk turned in my direction and took a photo of me! It was like saying “right back at ya!” or “you’re as strange as I am to you”.

I smiled and waved back. No hard feelings. But it definitely makes me think twice about taking photos of these beautiful monks. However tempting it is to bring back more indelible images of them, I’ll try to just let them be.

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