Inside the old monastery kitchen at Kalaw
Photographic Journeys discover some “Dutch Master” golden light in an ancient kitchen in Kalaw, Shan State, Myanmar
What we think we become !
It was a chance meeting….sometimes the best photographic opportunities just happen don’t they? I had met the young Nun as I was visiting a friend’s house with my guide Aung. The nuns were collecting wood from the small thicket at the foot of the large garden and one thing led to another and I was invited back to the monastery later that day.
The Nun who showed me such kindness and interest in what I was photographing told me she’d been a journalist and had worked in some overseas war-torn areas of conflict and the whole career and profession in journalism was thrown up when she had a nervous breakdown and suffered PTSD.
We shared tea and I met the head monk and she told me that as a photographer I should visit the kitchen. ‘The light in there is just what I think you are looking for’ ….and so even in that short spell she’d got the true measure of me and knew that light, shade and shadow pushed the right buttons for me.
She was right. The kitchen was lit by light from the hand of God himself. The smoke from the open fire was backlit by wide skylights open to the blue sky above, decades, possibly even a century of soot and smoke were welded to the stoves that bubbled and steamed with the food in prep for that evening’s meal. Kind gentle faces watched me as I slowly walked around and clicked a frame here and a frame there, Food was being prepared by hand in the old-fashioned way. Tomatoes, turmeric, freshly cut green vegetables, red chillies , chickpeas and salted fish were lying in the soft light like a painting….all I had to do was click the shutter and capture what was there in front of me.
I went back the next morning at dawn to capture the scene again as sunlight streamed in backlighting the entire old room. A cat meowed as fish was prepared and small scraps were thrown for it.
It was a location like so many on those last 3 weeks away I’ll never forget….and of course the great thing is I get to return soon, take my wife and stay again…..drink their delicious green tea and eat the freshly made food and talk quietly and intelligently with the monks and nuns.
What a privilege.
Join us next year when Photographic Journeys return to Myanmar with an extra new 5 day extension trip for 4 client photographers – where we’ll leave Yangon at the end of the tour and visit newly discovered and untouched locations.
Shot with a Fuji XT2 & X-Pro2 with 35mm and 18mm lenses