The Wandering Honeybadger – Benevolent Paparazzi Photographer to the Monkhood? Maybe a new title for my resume?
So I recently spent a number of days in Cambodia in Siem Reap in order to tour the Angkor Wat complex of temples. I must confess that, while I did NOT shamelessly chase monks around the temples of the Angkor Complex when I was there, I did generally try to move in the same direction they did in order to increase the likelihood that I would find a nice composition/scene that they appeared in.
Mostly because their bright orange saffron coloured robes were an excellent contrast to the sometimes drab and darker stones of the monument, and god knows my patience was being sorely tried with the hordes of oblivious tourists selfishly snapping self-interested selfies.
Also because I have always had great interactions with Buddhist Monks in the past, whether it be on the road or in my own visits to temples. For example I once did a 9 day tour in Thailand to 9 different Temples in 9 different provinces and received blessings by 9 different monks. BTW the significant of the number 9999 is that it’s a VERY auspicious number in Thailand (the license plate to get that number cost 11 million baht).
Back to Angkor, I had missed several opportunities in the previous days where some Monks in the frame would have been a nice addition, because I was either too late, in the wrong place, or had the wrong lens mounted. But I was back at the main temple on my last day, and I came across this younger monk resting on the outer wall near the Eastern gate. Of course the possibilities immediately became evident, so I thought I would be a bit more proactive, so I walked up to him and asked him if I could take his picture, and that I would share it with him, and if so what method, i.e. email or ?
He consented to being photographed, but then into a pose looking at the camera, which actually spoiled the whole candid situation in the first place. I asked him to move closer to the Devatas (goddesses) carved into the back wall and asked him not to look at the camera to be more like when I first saw him resting. On his own he moved the “props” of his orange umbrella and wrap, and tucked his cell phone beside. I think the fact that he had his shoes off and below his feet also added to the scene.
In Buddhist countries it is not uncommon for non-monks to join the monkhood for a limited period time, sometimes as young boys, or young men for a few days, weeks or months, and even older men. It does not have to be a lifelong commitment. So in fact they are very much like regular people, they have just elected to undergo some training in mindfulness and meditation, as well the more religious aspects of the rituals.
Just around the corner from the first young man, was another group of young monks being escorted by two young men in regular clothes. Based on the success of the photo-capture above I asked them as well as they were busy snapping selfies of themselves as well.
While not as representative of a candid shot, nor with the context of an intriguing background, I liked the range of expressions in the group.
Now in case you think I was leading them astray via social media, I simply asked them if I could take their photos and that I would share it with them if they had an email or some other account (surprisingly FB was the common denominator, they all had accounts), and as one can see they often (or pretty much all) had mobile phones as well.
In any event, they got a copy of a nice photo and I had some willing models, so it was certainly win win.