In my wanderings through Cambodia I was lucky enough to spend a few days in Angkor Wat. Gorgeous breathtaking place! I'm sure I could have spent weeks...months...years there and still have it leave me in awe every day.
On one of our days there I remember opting out of climbing a crazy steep set of stairs and waving the rest of the group on.....honest to goodness if you asked my legs they would swear all of Cambodia was uphill or up a set of narrow uneven stairs....no lie, I ended up losing 15 lbs or so in 3 weeks from the constant scaling of steep Cambodian things. But I digress...so I declined stair climbing and sat down to people watch....best decision I could have made.
While I sat there with my fellow photographer Amanda, I saw this Monk walk by...there was such contrast between him and the hoards of tourists crawling all over Angkor...we (tourists I mean) didn't look like we fit...but he seemed like he was meant to be there....like he lived and worked there. I quickly snapped off a couple of pictures and ended up with some interesting candid images of him with a crowd of tourists behind him. I hemmed and hawwed about it and turned to Amanda and said "I think I'm gonna go ask him if I can take his portrait", and wonderful person that Amanda is she cheered me on. So I walked up and used my broken Khmer to see if he would let me shoot him....it was evident from the big smile on his face and the twinkle in his eye that he was tickled pink by my request. He patiently let me snap away and lucky me I ended up with one of my favorite portraits from that trip...check it out here.
What was his story? Well with the help of Amanda (whose Khmer is phenomenal) I was able to learn he was a 80 year old gentleman who was married with 2 daughters. Later in life he had decided to become a monk and his family had supported him in his decision...he was at Angkor for a pilgrimage with his family. Not a tourist, but a visitor just like the rest of us tourists.....not at all the story I expected.
And just as my I was re-examining my beliefs about him, he whips out a cellphone from his robes and takes a call...and I couldn't resist pulling Zee up to my face and capturing the image of this 80 year old modern monk who challenged all my preconceptions.