How Do I Sell Bhutan

November 26, 2023

Dancing monk, Phongmey, Eastern BhutanDancing monk, Phongmey, Eastern Bhutan

Dancing monk, Phongmey, Eastern Bhutan
Fujifilm X-H2, Fujinon XF 56mm f1.2 R, f2.2 @ 1/4400 second, ISO 125

Over the weekend I saw the blockbuster film Napoleon. I love period pieces. I marvel at the costumes and the way they transform the atmosphere, the mood and the appeal of a scene. We possibly don't give the costume department sufficient credit for the success of a film.

Similarly, I'm not sure if I really appreciate just how magic it is when we travel around Bhutan. Okay, so David Oliver and I have a trip going there in April next year if you're interested, but there must be a reason we keep going back to take more photographs. And part of the reason is the variety of costume worn by most of the Bhutanese, most of the time. Bhutan really is like walking onto a movie set.

On every trip to Bhutan, we make sure it coincides with a religious festival where a dzong (a fortified Buddhist monastery) and its local community spend sometimes several days following a precise routine of dances and pantomimes. The monks wear elaborate costumes and masks so that it's hard to take a photograph that doesn't have appeal. Commonplace for the locals, exotic for us.

This festival was held outside. A huge yellow curtain was hung over the side of the temple building and the monks performed on a stone quadrangle, with a throng of villagers and school children sitting on the hill to one side and spectacular Himalayan mountain views on the other. 

For me, it's the silhouette of the monk's head that draws the eye and the continuity of the printed pattern on the huge curtain that makes it such an otherworldly composition. I also like the colour contrast (the monks come in all different hues, so it was just a matter of waiting for one that worked best with the background) and I've washed in a few clouds as an overlay to add to the ethereal atmosphere. I'm sure that will annoy the hell out of David the purist!

 


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