This Burmese monk is framed by many windows as we look across the Ananda Phaya (pagoda, or temple) in Bagan, Myanmar. The temple was designed as a perfectly proportioned Greek cross, with two parallel walkways around a square central room. The photo was taken from the outermost walkway, across the innermost walkway and intervening walls, to capture the image of the monk in the inner room. This Buddhist temple was built in 1105 AD, damaged by the 1975 earthquake, and now completely restored.
Incidentally, the niche in front of the monk contains a mirror that is reflecting silhouettes of us photographers and the grated window to the outside behind us.
This photo was taken on February 9, 2017. Specs are: Olympus TG-4, ISO 800, f/2.2, 1/30 sec, 5.14 mm
This post continues our series describing photography sessions with the photographer Maung Maung Bagan in Bagan, Myanmar. As our morning photo shoot with the young monk was nearing 11 am, we made one last stop at an “alms line.” This line of 20 statues is headed by Buddha, indicated by the Ushnisha (enlightenment elevation) on top of his head and the elongated ears. He and the following 19 monks hold alms bowls. We cannot read the signs at the feet of the statues, but they are probably lessons in Buddhism. Our model is carrying his sandals because the walkway beside the statues is sacred.
This photo was taken on February 8, 2017. Specs are:
This photo was taken in Bagan, Myanmar, on the top terrace of the Shwesandaw Pagoda. We, along with hundreds of other tourists, had climbed the steep steps (in our bare feet) and were crowded together on the western levels of this magnificent pagoda to witness the setting sun. At the very end of our terrace, a monk had climbed onto the corner parapet for an unobstructed view.
We were on the upper terrace of the 328-foot-high pagoda, but if he had slipped, he would have fallen “only” 15 feet to the next terrace down.
This photo was taken on February 9, 2017. Specs are:
Olympus Tough TG-4, ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/100 sec, 18 mm
As we were being driven to a temple in Bagan, Myanmar, we came across a parade. In the middle of the parade were musicians, a loudspeaker, and this dancing guy. This parade was not put on for tourists and was a very pleasant surprise.
This “parade” is part of the Shinbye, or novitiate ceremony, of Theravada Buddhism, that occurs only once a year for the ordination of boys under 20. The dancing man with his mustache and umbrella represented the clown U Shwe Yoe. The procession, called the shinlaung hlè pwe, ends at the monastery for the ordination ceremony.
These novice-to-be monks walk at the head of the parade and are followed by parents, young women in their finery, and children who will be expected to participate in their own parade when they are older.
The very young children in the parade are there to please their grandparents, in case the grandparents should die before the grandchildren’s official parade. At least this is what we were told, because it seemed to us that every child and parent in the village was in this parade. The young boys are dressed lavishly, as princes, and shielded by golden umbrellas, to symbolize their departure from sensuous pleasures and luxuries.
There was the usual dichotomy of wealth (or indebtedness) exhibited in this parade, with the least expensive (and most modest) transportation in the front (e.g., walking, followed by horseback riding) and the most expensive bringing up the rear (horse-drawn carts followed by oxen-drawn carts). This was the most lavish cart at the end of the parade, and was hired for the occasion from another town.
After our photo shoot at the colonnade, our photographer guide, Maung Maung Bagan, loaded us and the monk into his car and started driving down dirt paths. It was getting hot and we noticed that the only part of his air conditioner that still seemed to function was the ON light. On the other hand, we were zipping down roads at 40 miles per hour when other vehicles were crawling along at about 10 mph. We also left quite an impressive plume of dust.
We arrived at a temple and entered. At Maung Maung’s “suggestion”, we bought a pack of candles from a small shop inside the temple. We then went through an arched doorway which, to our surprise, led to a long cave containing only a large reclining Buddha. Placing the candles on stands and on the fingers of the Buddha, Maung Maung lit them and our little monk began to pray. The following photos show the results.
Specs: Canon 100D, ISO 400, f/5.0, 1/6 sec, 37 mm
Specs: ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, 32 mm
Specs: Canon 100D, ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 43 mm
Both closeup photos of the monk were taken with tripod-mounted cameras. The long view of the Buddha was taken with a camera propped on a table. For all the photos, the only illumination in the dark cave was the candelight seen in the photos.
For our earlier posts on our photo shoots that day, visit:
We have been seriously interested in learning photography for about two years, but have found it difficult to schedule learning experiences. While watching YouTube videos, we saw an interview recorded in Bagan, Myanmar, with a photographer named Maung Maung Bagan (pronounced “Mao Mao” for some reason). He is self-taught and his stunning photos have won numerous international awards.
After a fair amount of searching on the internet, we found Maung Maung and arranged for him to take us on a photo shoot. He met us at our hotel on our first morning in Bagan and drove around searching for something. Eventually, he stopped the car and said (I thought) “I need a map.” He got out and circled the car glancing in every direction. We were beginning to wonder if we had made a big mistake when he came back with a monk! He explained that we could hire the monk until about 11:30, when he needed to be back at the monastery in time to eat his last meal of the day. We hired him and drove to a location to replicate one of Maung Maung’s photos.
Two more mages from the first photo shoot appear below.
Monk with Umbrella
Monk with Umbrella
And two more images…
Monk with Umbrella
Monk with Umbrella
This was the first time we had worked with a model (and likely the first time the model had worked with a photographer). Despite the communications barriers and some other eccentricities, it was easy to see that Maung Maung is a photographic genius. We visited several more sites with other models which we will show in later posts.
Note: In Myanmar, consistent with the Buddhist philisophy, the young monk who modeled for us relies on alms collected from his community (see the alms bowl in his arms). Since we had used the time that he would have had for collecting alms (usually food), it was only right to “pay” for his services by giving him the commodity that we had, namely cash. Maung Maung himself bought the boy a lunch which he could eat before the noon deadline.
We passed through a rural village as we walked between sites in the Angkor complex. After passing the largest pig we had ever seen in its wallow (and we’ve seen quite a few pigs recently), we came upon a hut where the village monk was receiving some kind of medical treatment. He was happy to have his picture taken and asked our guide if he would be on Facebook.