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Old 11-28-2006, 06:01 PM   #1
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Question for anyone who practices the Buddhist Faith?

Ok so as you know I am an avid amateur photographer. I would love to go to a buddhist temple and photograph some of the ceremonies. photograph some monks individully. Any advice?
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Old 11-28-2006, 07:25 PM   #2
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I've never tried it in the US, but I've done a fair amount of casual photography at Buddhist and Hindu temples and monasteries in India and Nepal. This is more or less the process I go usually go through.

-- Come up with a list of temples and/or monasteries that you want to visit, and try to find out as much as you can about them before contacting them--a little knowledge is always a reassuring sign of respect. (What sect are they and what are the general features of that sect, for example; what ethnic community do they serve; what sorts of practices and ceremonies do they observe there, etc.) Perhaps they have a website, or perhaps an academic reference librarian could help you dig up some background. It might be helpful if there's a professor at your college or one of its affiliate campuses who teaches Buddhist studies, as they'd probably have at least a little experience with the local community and perhaps be able to give you some pointers. I don't recommend trying to take pictures at any place where no one seems to speak English well--the potential for misunderstanding and unintentionally giving offense is too great.

-- Have an initial meeting with them first to make sure that they're receptive to being photographed, what kinds of limitations and setup you can expect, and so forth. If it's a temple or a monastery/study center with a diverse membership, active outreach programs and a sophisticated website, this might be as simple as emailing them, but I'd suggest going in person instead. Introduce yourself--tell them what you do, why you want to photograph them, how you plan to use the photographs, what kinds of things you were hoping to photograph, and about how long you estimate it will take you. If they seem receptive to the idea (most places will tell you up-front if they're not), then see if it's possible for you to get a quick tour of where you'd be photographing right then, so that you can see what the conditions are like and they can give you any relevant info on places, people or objects that might be off-limits for pictures. (For example, some temples are fine with you photographing the priests as they conduct ceremonies, but will not allow you to photograph the idols. Or some monasteries may let you photograph their grounds, and permit individual monks to pose for you if they wish, but will not allow you to photograph group meditation exercises. Whether or not other visitors are comfortable being photographed can sometimes be an issue, as well--and you should be prepared for that possibility, even if the priests or monks are fine with it.) Finally, arrange a good time for you to return with your camera, and make sure you're clear on who, if anyone, you should look for (and where) when you get there.

-- Dress modestly and inconspicuously when you return with your camera. (You may need to remove your shoes and leave them outside, or you may need to wash your hands in a ritual basin first; some places require that, and you should make sure you're aware of such rules in advance.) If they have a donations box of some sort, it's good manners to leave some small change.

-- Keep in mind that these are private places of worship, and no one is under any obligation to allow you to photograph anything...plus, as I mentioned earlier, some objects or places may be strictly off-limits for religious reasons. Thank whoever you meet with initially very graciously, even if their answer is no, and do not attempt to push your luck with any restrictions they give you. If they do allow you to take photographs, then try if possible to find the person you spoke with initially and thank them again once you're done. It's unlikely to happen in the US I think, but sometimes in India people will express an interest in seeing some of the photos. I always comply if time allows, and offer them copies as well if they seem interested.
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Old 11-28-2006, 07:30 PM   #3
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Thanks Yolland. I think this would be a fantastic project.
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