A monk sweeping Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Prabang. Despite Laos being one of the world’s last Communist countries, more than 65 per cent of the population say they are Buddhist, although it is a unique form with strong roots in native animist beliefs. Almost every Laotian man will spend time in a monastery, especially before marriage, although women can only attain Nirvana after being reincarnated as a man.
Laos – Photo Tip

Approach your subjects, but be respectful

Photo by David Sanger

Laos – Photo Tip Approach your subjects, but be respectful

You will find beautiful Buddhist temples throughout Laos but it is the human side of Buddhism, the saffron clad monks and students, that makes the most engaging and iconic photography subject.

David Sanger
David Sanger

Photographing monks can be intimidating, but it need not be. It helps to have a basic knowledge of Buddhism, so read a guide and approach people with a sense of respect and quiet.

For this shot in Vientiane it was a dusty evening as I walked next to the Mekong River. As the sun set the hazy sky began to turn a deepening orange and I quickly sought a distinctive subject to outline against it. Spotting the monks with their parasol on the river embankment, I rushed ahead as they approached a young man on a motorcycle. The resulting silhouette is a juxtaposition of old and new, sacred and secular, relaxed and active which reflects the parallel strains in Laotian life and culture.

The single shot of the monk sweeping was taken one quiet morning in Luang Prabang. I saw this solitary elder monk at a temple entrance. Using a long lens and moving to frame him against the dark background I was lucky to catch a lone backlit leaf in mid-air.

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Two monks pass a man on motorbike as the sun goes down in Vientiane. Besides That Luang, the city is also home to That Dam, a stupa said to be the resting place of a seven-headed dragon that saved the city in 1828 during an invasion by Siam (Thailand). Photo by David Sanger

David Sanger

David Sanger

Nikon F100

Aperture
ƒ/5.6
Exposure
1/200
ISO
50
Focal
200 mm

Two monks pass a man on motorbike as the sun goes down in Vientiane. Besides That Luang, the city is also home to That Dam, a stupa said to be the resting place of a seven-headed dragon that saved the city in 1828 during an invasion by Siam (Thailand).

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