Window Into Banteay Kdei, Cambodia
April, 2009. I’d seen photos of Cambodian temples with orange-robed monks wandering through or standing silently in deep contemplation. Despite being a cliche, I hoped to have a chance for similar photos while in Cambodia. Often, I feel that covering the cliche photos is the place to start before searching for different ways to portray an iconic subject. The first couple days touring temples around Siem Reap, all I saw were other tourists -- at some temples, busloads of them, at other temples only one or two. But then at Banteay Kdei, a large group of monks arrived and wandered around the temple. I was reluctant to take their pictures at first, worried that I might be interfering with some personal spiritual moment. So I did my best to take photos from a distance so as not to interfere. But then, as I caught the photo below, I realized that the monk on the right was not deep in thought, but checking email on his blackberry. And then a few minutes later, a few of the monks approached me and asked to have their picture taken with me, each carrying a digital camera. That’s when I learned that they were monk-trainees on a field trip from Phnom Penh. Suddenly the cliche photo took on a new modern perspective ... a monk not lost in deep contemplation, but lost in his emails despite the surroundings in a centuries-old temple.