Pingyao, an ancient town in the Shanxi province of China, completely walled, preserved and authentic looking, is home to the yearly Pingyao photography festival where thousands of photographer meet. I visited for 3 days as 2 of my photographs were curated and included in a show there and during the last 2 days, it rained endlessly setting a beautiful mood for photography. I walked and walked, got drenched and took some photos that I will treasure for always.
Finding yourself in a temple like Ta Prohm with its mysterious stone structures, the large banyan trees that are reclaiming the architecture and devouring it back into the earth is a kind of mystical experience. I was there wandering between the ancient walls when I heard a rustle behind the trees, I looked over and I saw a beautiful pair of eyes following me around. I approached slowly and a slow exchange began to happen between the little girl who owned those eyes and me. The hesitancy gradually gave way to smiles, the distrust to trust and we ended up walking together silently. At the end of my visit, the little fairy of Ta Prohm granted me the chance of a portrait to treasure for years to come.
A new month begins with images and stories from a land so enchanting called ‘Kampuchea’, the empire of the Khmers, the present day Kingdom of Cambodia, the land of the worshipers of Theravada Buddhism, of hill tribes, of stilt houses and of magical ancient temples. It is a place where mystery is alive and well and where today’s generation struggles to overcome the bloody history of its parents and grandparents, poverty, and social injustice to become once again the kingdom it deserves to be.
It gives me so much joy to dive back into this archive, and I hope that you will enjoy contemplating it with me through 31 images and not too many words.
Every journey must end for a new one to begin…
This image concludes the Egypt series for the month of March and I thought in encapsulates the whole experience for me. Humans, friends, together in a quest, searching for the truth, looking at the ancient, to better cope with the now and with the future. The human story, our story, your story, my story, her story, his story , history…
The next month will be an entirely different chapter of my story, another life changing experience, in images..
till tomorrow, good night from New York, and thank you for bearing with me while I am traveling with very little time to comment on your work. Thank you also for your wonderful, thoughtful and encouraging comments on this series. I have enjoyed every post, and every comment and I have valued every reflection you gave back to me about the work.
The impressive mortuary temple built for Queen Hatshepsut, the 18th dynasty female Pharaoh stands as the evidence of Egypt’s influence on today’s classical architecture styles. This pharaoh was known for her great power and dominion over both upper and lower Egypt and was said to reign for over 22 years.
The original name of the mortuary temple is Djeser-Djeseru (holy of holies) and it is entirely dedicated to the birth and life of the queen to whom it was dedicated.
Legends of Queen Hatshepsut’s great ambition as a ruler and the later destruction and desecration of her statues leave much to ponder about her intentions as a ruler of Egypt. The sense I got standing at the temple near Deir el Bahari is that of cloudy oppression.
If the pyramids were burial chambers, how come no bodies(mummies) were found in any of them in Egypt?
This impressive 6 mastaba pyramid is found inside the great courtyard of Saqqara near the city of Memphis in Egypt. Historians tell us that it was built around 2800 BC as a tomb for the Pharaoh Djoser whose Horus name was Netjerykhet, by his vizier Imhotep. This pyramid is the oldest known worked stone large structure in the world and used to be covered by smooth limestone like the later pyramids at Giza. Upon standing at the foot of these pyramids in Egypt, the idea of a tomb was quite far away from my mind…
The Colossi of Memnon are shrouded with mystery and lore. One of these 2 massive 18 meter statues is known since ancient history to ‘sing’ at dawn. It is supposed to emanate a sound like the string of a lyre breaking at the early morning hours. The phenomenon was first reported by the Greek historian Strabo who claims to have personally heard it around the year 20BC. These statues stand marking the entrance to Amenhotep’s temple and are said to depict his person.
The strangest thing to me about these statue and other megalithic sites I have seen in Europe (Carnac, Avebury, Stonehenge) is the fact that the stones that made them were firstly incredibly massive and secondly, they were transported across long distances in ways that we still do not comprehend. We always assumed that the ancients were inferior to us with their lack of technological know-how, but were they really? The large one-piece stones for these statues were quarried about 420 miles (675 km) away from where they stand and were moved to Thebes where they have been for at least the last 3400 years. This is a massive undertaking that amazes me and forces me think that we know so little about Egypt.
All rich moments in life become richer when shared with a good friend, a companion…
The journey to Egypt was a unique adventure in so many ways and most of the uniqueness came from the great feeling of sharing and fraternity with friends of like minds searching together. The stories of that trip are divided between the memories of 25 or more friends, and the story would best be told if they were to be quilted together. This is why in my heart of hearts I know that my story is incomplete, and that to add to it the accounts of my companions, it would crystalize into a multifaceted gem. We humans thrive on companionship, on relations with other humans who walk similar paths and on the exchanges we can have with people that we feel kinship with.
I do miss Egypt so much but I miss the friends who were with me on that trip even more. This post is dedicated to them, my companions in Egypt.
History and civilizations are not linear in their development…
Each time I look at remains of ancient civilizations like the Chinese, the Mayans, the Romans, the Greeks, and the Egyptians, I find it quite difficult to relegate the fact that a lot of what is evident in their artifacts and architecture points to a more developed culture in certain ways than what we are witnessing today. Despite the post-industrial revolution’s speedy advancements in technology, I find that comparing for example the pyramids, temples, artwork of the ancient Egyptians, today’s Egypt appears to be primitive in so many ways.
This leads me to wonder where the human race has gone wrong. Did we deviate in some way from the glory that could have been? Or is a world engrossed in wars, poverty, global warming, revolutions and failed leaderships the way of the future?
They say that whatever you do while alive on this planet is printed in the astral light of it, in its archives, waiting to be tuned to and accessed…
I remember one time while working in Paris and on a quieter morning at the Louvre, standing in front of the Mona Lisa gazing at her and thinking, after the initial surprise at the small size of the painting (my head always liked to magnify it to larger proportions), that Da Vinci stood once in front of this painting and gazed at it, his beautiful work. That thought stayed with me and its simple truth amazed me every time I looked at works of art or remains of ancient history.
It was the same in Egypt, the echos of the creators of Egypt lingered on, haunting the visitor with questions and wonderings. How did they build it? What were they thinking while they carved these walls? What was the weather like? Who were they? How tall were they? Did they take meal breaks? How often? How long did it take to complete? And that always leads to the major question: “what was the purpose of it all?” The mystery in history, it never stops tugging at me.
photo: my friend Mark gazing at a temple wall in Dendera~ Egypt