When visiting new places, traveling off the beaten path can often yield unexpected surprises, as was the case with photographer Enoch Contreras’s trip to Cambodia. Jaded by the hordes of tourists on his visit to Angkor Wat, he wandered off from the crowds in search for a moment of quiet and ended up stumbling upon an adjacent monastery. There, he was met with a monk covered in tattoos, a look that Contreras hadn’t ever associated with Buddhist practitioners. Intrigued by the disparity between his preconceived notions of monkhood and the monk’s actual appearances, he sought to learn more about their lifestyles. For the next few days, with the aid of a younger monk at the monastery who spoke passable English, he embedded himself within their community and produced the Seeking Sacred photo series.
每到一个新地方，独辟蹊径往往能让人收获意想不到的惊喜。摄影师 Enoch Contreras 在柬埔寨的旅程正是如此。前往历史悠久的吴哥窟旅游时，Enoch 避开了热门的旅游景点，却在偶然间发现了附近的一个寺院。
在这间寺院，他遇到一个身上布满纹身的僧人正在切菜，这位僧人看上去与 Enoch 印象中的僧侣形象如此不同，让他感到十分好奇。在接下来的几天里，通过一位会一点英语的年轻和尚的帮助，Enoch 得以融入到这座寺院的生活中，拍摄了《Seeking Sacred》（《寻找神圣》）这一系列的作品。
“I thought that all monks were serious practitioners who chose their path because they wanted to dedicate their lives to the teachings of Buddha,” Contreras told us.
But as it turns out, many from this particular monastery didn’t join out of religious devotion alone. For many of the monks there, Buddhism was more than a religious belief. The monastery provided shelter and food, and so, following the path of Dharma became a practical way for them to survive.
“Many of the younger monks especially,” Contreras tells us. “Their families couldn’t afford to provide for them so they were brought to live there where they knew their kids’ basic necessities would be taken care of. Others were orphans who came for the same reason, as a means of survival. One of the older monks became an orphan during the Cambodian genocide when he lost his entire family. He chose this path in order to maintain a life off the streets.”
With an authentic interest in these monks’ lives, Contreras was able to create compelling photos that are a refreshing departure from the typical, detached perspectives of a photographer experiencing a new culture for the first time. Seeking Sacred shows these monks not as mysterious zealots. but reveals them for who they really are, as regular people with their own hopes and struggles. “When there were no tourists around, they relaxed and allowed themselves to be exactly who they were without any masks,” he tells us. “They were gritty and playful, yet balanced by their beliefs. Despite their decision to walk the path of Dharma, they were still holding on to who they were before they became devoted. That’s exactly what I wanted to show.”
通过深入了解生活在那里的僧侣，Enoch 的照片不同于业余摄影师照片中那种置身事外的视角。在《Seeking Sacred》镜头下的僧人，并不属于一个神秘的狂热宗教，相反，这些照片呈现了他们内心真实的一面，和普通人一样，他们也有着自己的希望、梦想和奋斗。“我想表达的是，尽管他们选择了佛教，但他们仍然坚持着做真正的自己。当周围没有游客时，他们会放松下来，卸下面具，做真实的自己。他们坚强又风趣，同时有着自己的信念。”