Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dennis Cordell: Buddhist Monks

Photo © Dennis Cordell-All Rights Reserved
383...that's the number of square format black & white portraits of Buddhist monks (and a few sadhus) that Dennis Cordell is exhibiting on his website; all made with a film Hasselblad which he prefers to the 35mm format. These are not photographs made because the subjects are handsome or beautiful...they're are ethnographic in nature. I believe he uses and pushes Tri-X film, then scans the negatives and prints digitally. I've featured Dennis' portraits of Buddhist novices at the Gyudzin Tantric Monastery School in Ladakh before. These were published on Flickr, but he has now acquired a standalone website.

I'm not certain where all these impressive portraits were made, but I did notice that some had background information that indicated Bodh Gaya. A religious site and place of pilgrimage in the Indian state of Bihar, Bodh Gaya is famous for being the place of the Buddha's attainment of enlightenment. It is one of the most important of the main four pilgrimage sites related to the life of the Buddha. The other three are Kushinagar, Sarnath (both in India) and Lumbini (Nepal).

Dennis trained as a painter, and his favorite subject matter, either in painting or in photography, has always been portraiture...especially of Buddhist monks and similar. He prefers black & white because, in his own voice: "The greater the range of tonality between black and white, the greater, for me, is the image. A photo can never have too many shades of grey. Greys are the midtones that create the designs and textures woven into the photo."

I agree. This is the case, perhaps not always...but often. As I mentioned in an earlier post about my own photographs of Bali, I got too much color while there...and I found black & white more calming...more soothing and more, in a strange way, realistic.