Study in Imagery

The serene image of a monk praying delights me. The Tibetan Buddhist monks of Nepal could take the interest of my camera for an entire year, I am certain. The colors and folds of their robes, the bright light on their shaven heads could sustain me, just the imagery alone, but the incantations also tickle my soul. I often catch myself with a broad grin as I am photographing them or even just in their presence.

I think in photography, studies are becoming more and more important for me and perhaps for the larger community. We look at everything, but because there is so much to see, we rarely study anything. Our frenetic world doesn’t ask for it and doesn’t allow it unless you fight for the time to study. Here then, is one monk and one image I took on my last trip, in a series of studies.

Each one has certain lines, shadows or organic curves that attracted me to it. I’ve spelled out my thoughts about why I selected each. The complete photo, the one each of these is taken from, is last.

Monk at Boudhanath.

He could be sleeping or texting on a phone or reading a newspaper. This study is not about what he is doing, it is about how calm and centered he is. Echoed lines on each side of his neck give balance, while the nip of sunlight on his forehead makes him feel natural and outdoors.

The gold horn on a red rope could be the focus here, but it is overshadowed by the repeating brown beads and even the shadow of the beads. Repeating things stand out, especially in diagonal lines. Tiny bits of yellow at the top add interest. There is no part of the monk’s person in this photo, only his clothes and belongings, which is interesting in itself because a monk’s belongings are not supposed to be anything of interest.

The shape and activity of hands are telling in any portrait, here they are caressing each prayer bead as the words are spoken. I imagine that he has done this thousands of times, yet he still takes each bead in turn, carefully, as if it was the first time. Shadows on the yellow cloth add texture and dimension.

This was one of the most successful photos of my second trip. I loved the subject from the moment I saw him. He was completely enveloped in his activities, undaunted by the tourist chatter and chaotic hum all around him. Perhaps his umbrella shielded him from it? He was an island of calm and he drew me in with it.