Monk (NIKON D5100 1/1250--f/4 17mm)
Monk (NIKON D5100 1/1250–f/4 17mm)

This is one of my favourite street photos from Hong Kong ! It was made in the Ladies Market on a very overcast day. The street was packed with customers and vendors, and we had a tough time moving from stall to stall with the children.

What do you see when you look at the photo? Do you see a solemn figure of serenity surrounded by the chaos of commerce? I certainly did at the time. The Monk cut a striking figure amidst the gaggle of people fighting for a bargain. Or so I thought…

I’ll tell you the real story, and you’ll see how a photo can lie; how it can manipulate reality to be something else; how the camera can surgically remove a moment in time and place it in a whole new context in order to create new meaning.

Like I said before, we were in the Ladies Market, fighting to move from vendor to vendor. I looked up and saw the Monk walking slowly down the centre of the street. In that moment, I was struck by the image of a figure of spirituality making his way through the noise and confusion of this modern world. I raised the Nikon to my eye and quickly pressed the shutter. Moment captured. Photo stored. And then the moment moved on and the story changed…

He caught my eye and dingled a delicate bell. An empty cup was offered, and I surmised that he wanted money. Rather than move on after I shook my head, he was insistent. The bell dingled and dingled and he waved the cup right under my chin. It made me feel very uncomfortable. Moments later, the crowd pushed in and he was gone. We moved quickly on.

I’d not heard of it before, but so-called fake Monks are quite common in Hong Kong. In fact, there are now even a few in Australian cities, I’ve recently discovered! Real Buddhist Monks don’t walk the streets asking for money from people. Now…look at the photo again. What do you see?

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Photo Story : Monk in Mong Kok
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16 thoughts on “Photo Story : Monk in Mong Kok

  • January 21, 2015 at 2:33 pm
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    What a great piece. I think this is very relevant in today’s era of media manipulation and spin.

    Does anyone remember this piece( http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/nelson-mandela-memorial-michelle-obama-2912516) which “allegedly” shows Michelle Obama giving her husband a dirty look whilst Barack Obama “flirts” and “takes a selfie” with another woman?

    The shots taken just before and after revealed that the three were all talking and enjoying each others company as a group: Michelle O just happened to be looking away for this one snapshot.

    But, of course, the “story” was an angry jealous wife so that was the shot that was publicised.

    Regardless of one’s personal views on a politician or photo subject, the statement “the camera never lies” is not always true!

    Reply
    • January 21, 2015 at 2:57 pm
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      Thank you visiting Sufiah. I’m glad you did because you raise an interesting point about the power of media to deceive. I remember that particular story, and the water cooler chatter around it. We must always remember that most photos are reality stripped of context. The media is not simply there to inform in today’s world; it is there to profit and titillate also. I would even go so far as to say that information is secondary to profit and cheap entertainment. The camera is simply the editors primary tool in the means of deception.
      This is not to say that the photo cannot be used for good and to shed light on those darker areas of existence.
      Thank you again.

      Reply
  • January 21, 2015 at 3:27 am
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    Great story…or is it sad story? Where I live we have men dressed as clowns who beg for money. Being the transplants that we are, we were initially fooled and thought it “so nice.”

    Nice shot…I can feel the atmosphere.

    Reply
    • January 21, 2015 at 3:30 am
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      Thank you for dropping im Susan. Is it a sad story? Maybe it is. People deceive other people for money. I noticed this a lot on travels. Some people will sell you junk to survive. Others will lie to you to get money to live on. So, it can be very sad in that so many people do these things just to survive in this big world.

      Reply
  • January 20, 2015 at 10:08 am
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    How interesting, I never knew fake monks existed! I would probably have just thought he was real and that’s what monks do, having never come across one. I love the colours in this picture!

    Reply
    • January 20, 2015 at 12:33 pm
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      I know what you mean. I thought it too at first, but the Monk was so insistent when he approached me for money, that something just didn’t seem quite right. Apparently it’s quite a common sight in places like Hong Kong, so I learned something that day. Thank you for visiting.

      Reply
  • January 12, 2015 at 3:09 am
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    A wonderful atmospheric shot of a busy market street too!!

    Reply
    • January 12, 2015 at 7:13 am
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      Thanks. Mong Kok actually means ‘busy corner’ in Chinese. It’s a name well given to the place.

      Reply
  • January 11, 2015 at 9:15 pm
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    What an absolutely great story to go with your photograph!! I am often very curious about other blogger’s photos. It is important to me to know more. So, thanks for taking the time to explain. We all see what we want to see, the older I get, the more I realize that. Reality and fantasy are so intertwined, no wonder everyone is confused!

    Reply
    • January 12, 2015 at 7:17 am
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      As is often said, especially in politics: ‘perception is reality’. I think it’s important too, but I understand that not everyone wants to get wordy. I happen to be a writer at heart, so it’s natural for me to go on a bit !!

      Reply
  • January 11, 2015 at 7:37 pm
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    Still an amazing shot and interesting story. Nothing is sacred.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2015 at 2:09 am
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      Thanks Yolanda. True indeed, nothing is sacred in a world where money ensures survival of the body. It saddens me greatly.

      Reply
  • January 11, 2015 at 5:24 pm
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    A man in the street. Don’t know much about monks, but the ones I have seen has not been wearing that kind of clothes. But then again I have not seen that many

    Reply
    • January 12, 2015 at 2:10 am
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      I guess the reason you haven’t seen them around much is because real Monks don’t go around collecting coin! Thank you for stopping by šŸ™‚

      Reply
  • January 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm
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    Thanks for including the story along with the photo… the perception is the opposite of reality.

    Reply
    • January 12, 2015 at 7:21 am
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      Thanks for stopping by šŸ™‚ Yes, very true in many cases !

      Reply

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