Khmer Monks in Phnom Kulen National Park
Courtney Esson tells us about her travels and observation of the Khmer Monks living in Phnom Kulen National Park, Siem Reap, Cambodia:
“It’s no surprise that some of my most influential images of South East Asia come from the people of Cambodia, a culture of welcoming, open and humble people. Khmer monks occupy their own social class and are highly respected. They live privately, studying, working and housing together in pagodas and abide by a monastic way of life. Brightly clad in orange robes, they create a fascinating subject, unmistakable among the country’s’ religious monuments. Within the sacred mountain of Phnom Kulen they join the multitude of tourists and locals come to enjoy nature, but in a secluded corner by a waterfall. The monks cool off in the water away from tourists, social engagement with women, something that requires careful attention, and locals maintain their highly regarded views.
Here I felt as though I had been allowed to witness something wonderfully intimate. The moments of genuine, pure emotion I was able to capture reflected my thoughts of the Khmer people. Despite a history of hardship, there was always an environment of sincerity and warmth that came to define my experience and make Cambodia one of my favorite travel destinations. These images were not taken to shock or impress but reflect an authentic, candid moment of identified and genuine emotion.”