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Strong colors: The monks of Southeast Asia

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PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: The monks of Southeast Asia are a photographer´s dream – especially in the hour before the sun sets over the pagodas. 

I have a love for Asia. It goes back to my childhood, when my grandfather told exciting stories from his years as missionary in China in the 1920s and 1930s. Later I worked three years as correspondent in Asia for Norway´s largest newspaper Aftenposten.

I have kept going back to Asia every year. Recently I also published the book “Smertens smil – en reise i Kambodsja” (“Smile of pain – a travel in Cambodia).

Going to Myanmar

In two weeks I will go to Myanmar for vacation. I cannot wait for all the great photo opportunities!

In eager anticipation I thought that I in this week´s Picspiration Sunday would share some images of my favorite photo subject in Southeast-Asia: The colorful monks.

Smoking monk in Phnom Penh. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Smoking monk in Phnom Penh. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Best before sunset

The sun can be very intense during the day in both Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar – and the best time to photograph people is the last couple of hours before sunset. Colors are warmer and shadows not so sharp.

Therefore I often plan to spend those hours walking around just looking for people to photograph.

Monks are everywhere. But the best place to go is to the pagodas. Usually the monks live around the pagodas – and you can find them relaxing after a hard day´s work. My experience is that they are often happy to be photographed, especially if you take the time to chat a little with them. Many monks are young and ambitious men eager to practice English.

Monks in Chiang Mai

A couple of years back I participated in a fun photography workshop in Chiang Mai in Thailand organized by Flash Light Expeditions. Here are a couple of monk photographs from that workshop.

A monk performing a ceremony in Chiang Mai. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A monk performing a ceremony in Chiang Mai. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

I love the color of the monks´clothes. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

I love the color of the monks´clothes. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A monk staying by the lake in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A monk staying by the lake in the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Monks in Cambodia

I have been many times in Cambodia during the last few years working on my book about the country.

Here are some more monk photographs from Cambodia:

A monk in Phnom Penh with his mobile phone. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A monk in Phnom Penh with his mobile phone. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

This is one of my favorite monk photographs, which also has a place on the wall in my own living room. Taken in a pagoda in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

This is one of my favorite monk photographs, which also has a place on the wall in my own living room. Taken in a pagoda in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Getting around. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Getting around. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

In his own thought. From Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

In his own thoughts. From Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

About the author: Communications officer, journalist, author, digital strategist, photographer, traveller…and more.

3 comments… add one
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