This photograph is of monks chanting their Buddhist mantras in a small temple that forms part of the Gandan Khiid monastery in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. There was a sign outside the temple saying “No Photographs” so I took this photograph by natural light, holding the camera discretely at waist level. In places where photography is prohibited it is usually for three reasons: (1) cultural reasons; (2) they don’t want flash photography, and most tourists don’t know how to turn off their automatic flashes; or (3) they want to make money by forcing you to buy postcards of the place. I will always observe the ban if I think it is for the first reason, but as Buddhist temples don’t normally prohibit photography, I assumed that here it would have been for the second reason as the monks obviously wouldn’t want their prayers disturbed by flash guns going off all the time. Some TEers might disagree with me and say you should always observe such a ban on photography, but then you see other tourists who can’t, or didn’t, read the sign taking photographs anyway. In this shot I was trying to capture the light streaming in through the window to light up the altar, which is being attended to by an old lady in a gold silk robe, whilst the monks on either side are chanting (pity we can’t post audio files as well to the complete atmosphere!) Focal length was 14 mm.
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paulartus (832) 2005-06-18 7:17
Nice photo and interesting note which opens up a whole philosophical debate. Another question in this is if the monks do not know you have taken the photo, and are not therefore upset, have you in fact done a bad thing. I only ponder this because I too was in that very room about a year ago sneaking a photo as well. The thing is the colours, the atmosphere and everything was so magical that it was too tempting to resist.
rushandy (214) 2005-06-18 7:22
I would like to think that if they saw the photo that they would be so impressed with how well you captured the essence of the place, that they wouldn't have minded you taking it in the first place!
Looks fantastic, I can almost hear them chanting. Quite surreal as well that both of you guys have been to the exact same place, in such a remote part ofthe world, and done exactly the same thing!!
jeanfrancois (1260) 2005-06-18 12:39
Personally I feel the same as you. In Tibet at Tashilhumpo it was forbidden to take photographs inside some rooms but I did one or two, discretely. They are blurred but I like them.
Of course I don't thing one should disturb monks at all.
I like your photo. I am off to Mongolia in a few weeks. I am glad I'll be able to visit this monastery.
Best to you.
erdna (5711) 2005-06-18 21:37
This is a fantastic photo despite the limitations imposed on the photographer. The light coming from the window is what makes this so beautiful. The rest of the photo is very well done.