Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Perception and Interpretation: Photography is ambiguous

Beyond the saffron scandals  

We believe Monks live a life of simplicity, without desires for worldly pleasures, detached from the issues of this life. Is our belief just an expression of unrealistic expectations?  Or is it our unsuspecting naivety?

Documenting the lives of four Thai monks in New York, this exhibition by the 28-year-old National Geographic Thailand photographer is likely to be more provocative than aesthetically soothing.

"The concept is to take photos of these monks' ways of life there," Ekkarat explains. "They sort of tease Thai people's myths and mindset of what ideal monks should be like. Their lives are quite different..."

Ekkarat Punyatara's photo exhibition "It's Personal" plays with viewers' perceptions and prejudices.

At the far end of the gallery stands a centerpiece photo of two monks hanging out at the beach.  One is crouching with a camera in hand, apparently trying to get to the best shot of his friend. 

There are plenty more shots of monks in rather unsettling acts, from taking a sightseeing-like trip on the subway to queuing up in the supermarket or sunbathing in a garden. One shows a monk sipping a Frappuccino from Starbucks.

This Photo exhibition of a sensitive subject raises many questions. Here are my questions.

  1. What's the reality of Monks Lives--Is the essence of monk-hood subjectively determined or essentially objective? 
  2. How does cultural bias distort our interpretations of a photograph?
  3. Are the ideals of an existential mode of Other-Worldly Being self-contradictory?
  4. Does human existence entails inescapable Being-in-the World?
  5. What are the essential structures of embodied human life?
  6. Can photography depict reality or is it inevitably illusory?
  7. What is the role of the photographer in his photography? How he frames the viewer's understanding?

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