God, Schmod, But…

Gods have always been used to explain what humans don’t understand. There used to be a god or goddess for everything. Then science came along, and, bit by bit, we learned how the world works, so we no longer need gods for rain and sun and harvest etc. All that is left is two questions: “why are we here?” and “what happens after we die?” It is fear of meaninglessness and mortality that keeps faith alive.  The saving grace of religion is that it has been responsible for a lot of really wonderful art and architecture over the centuries.  Here is some Hindu art from Hampi and Badami, in India.

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Myanmar!

I’ll be going to Myanmar in October, for four weeks.  This is a trip I’ve been wanting to take ever since my four days at Angkor Wat in 2005.  Since then, Angkor has been dramatically commercialized, but Myanmar has not, due to its political isolation.  I am very excited to wander amongst the ancient ruins of Bagan, ride a train across the Burmese countryside, take a longboat up a river or two, and soak up this unique culture before it is consumed by the West.  2200 temples still extant in the 40 square miles that made up the cultural and religious center of the Pagan Empire between the 11th and 13th centuries.  That alone will make this trip magical. Here is a photo from Angkor in 2005.

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and another from Wat Phu in Laos, 2011

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Beginnings

In 2005 I took what I like to call “my first trip as a serious photographer”.  It was a whirlwind tour of Vietnam and Cambodia.  Angkor Wat was undoubtedly the most memorable part of the trip, and I have been searching for a similar experience ever since.  Petra came close, but i was never able to find solitude among the ruins there.  (you no longer can at Angkor either, from what I hear)  Maybe I will find it this year in Myanmar.

Looking back at my photos from the trip, most of them are pretty bad.  I did cull a few gems, especially from Angkor, where it is hard to take a bad photo.  I remember going through the photos on my two cards deleting pictures of Vietnam to make room for pictures of Angkor.  I hate to think what I lost.  At any rate, All of my photos from that trip are far different than they would be today.  Lots of quirky “experimental” angles, most of which don’t work, and lots of shots of stuff that was just so cool that I couldn’t step back metaphorically and be objective about the image.  Here is a portrait of a young boy at an outlying temple that I bicycled to on my last day.  It has the odd angle, but I was paying attention when I shot it, and I think it works.

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Eid Mubarak

On this day of Muslim unity, I wish for Muslims everywhere to unite against those who kill in the name of Islam, those who seek power through violence against other Muslims.  This is what Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist organizations do.  Yes, they execute high profile attacks against western targets, but overwhelmingly they attack their own people.  There are more than a billion Muslims on the planet.  Violent Islamists represent a tiny fraction of them.  Reject their philosophy of violence, both literal and figurative, against governments and secular institutions. Reject their perpetuation of ignorance, especially in their denial of education to women.  Come together as a people and make peace with yourselves and with the rest of the world.