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Revealing Buddhism’s secrets

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Khmer monks meet Burmese nuns in 4Faces’ latest photography exhibition. JANOS KIS (left) and GEOFF CROLL (right)

Khmer monks meet Burmese nuns in 4Faces’ latest photography exhibition. JANOS KIS (left) and GEOFF CROLL (right)

Two photographers will go toe to toe this Saturday, January 2, as 4Faces gallery unveils its newest photography exhibition Sacred…And the Nun’s Life: Janos Kis vs Geoff Croll at 7pm. The show will feature photos of the sacred tattoos of Khmer monks, by Kis, juxtaposed with Croll’s photos of the daily lives of Burmese nuns.

Pictures will be displayed in the 4Faces style of a storyboard strip with a beginning, middle and end. The unifying theme will be Buddhism and spirituality – and it’s not really a competition.

“We gave them an item in common, and then let them figure out how to shoot it,” says Eric de Vries, co-owner of 4Faces and a photographer himself. De Vries and a few other photographers – Kis, Croll, Jean-Francois Perigois and Steve Goodman – recently formed a new photo collective called SEA/collectiv that will be headquartered in Siem Reap.

They left their old agency, Asia Motion, and formed SEA/collectiv because they felt their former organisation focused too narrowly on Phnom Penh.

Hungarian photographer Kis has arranged for some of the monks he photographed to attend and bless the show, although he’s not positive they’ll show up. Persuading the monks to be photographed was no easy task either. “I had to hire a fixer to find the monks and then had to explain exactly why I wanted to do it,” says Kis.

Both portfolios highlight forbidden or secret aspects of Buddhist life. Monks usually hide their tattoos under their robes and don’t allow many to see them while the daily lives of Burmese nuns are a mystery to outsiders.

The exhibition will be awash with the two main robe colours: the burnt orange of Khmer monks and the bright pink of Burmese nuns.

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