HAVING wandered through 90 countries, ranging from Nicaragua to North Korea, in pursuit of “the extraordinary in everyday life”, internationally acclaimed photographer Jeremy Horner turned his focus on Buddhist Asia for his latest collection, which opens in Phnom Penh this week.
Englishman Horner, who has been published in a host of international publications including Life, National Geographic, Newsweek and The Sunday Times as well as authoring four books on Colombia, documented the spread of Buddhism across Asia for his collection, Nirvana - Journeys of Enlightenment Across Buddhist Asia.
“I wanted to trace the spread of Buddhism across Asia because it occurred to me that there were certain parallels in the story with the spread of other faiths, such as Christianity in Europe,” he said.
Although not religious himself, he believed Buddhist teachings – and in particular the concept of nirvana – were something that everyone could relate to, and apply in daily life.
Horner traveled all over Asia to capture images of monks set against iconic backdrops like the Himalayas in Tibet and Rajasthan in India.
Particular subjects stick in his mind today, he said, such as the photo titled Bubble Gum Monk – which he photographed in 1988, when he was still young, and merely “a backpacker with a camera”. It showed a young monk clad in the traditional orange robe, happily blowing a gum bubble at the camera.
“I didn’t develop the film until months later in London and noticed the second monk in the background,” he said. He credits Bubble Gum Monk for his professional success too, as six years later he noticed the Bubble Gum Monk staring directly down at him from a giant poster in the London subway.
Another favourite photograph in the collection was of the monk he encountered at the ancient political and religious capital Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka.
“The light was murky all day and I thought I was going to come away with very little. But somehow the overcast weather ended up helping to illustrate the scale of this extraordinary stupa.”
Nirvana – Journeys of Enlightenment Across Buddhist Asia by Jeremy Horner, The exhibition will run for two months, and the opening launch lasts from December 19 to December 23.