KENRO IZU PHOTOGRAPHY

2003BHU131

Druk #131, Paro, Bhutan 2003
In Bhutan, where the entire kingdom seems to be a holy realm, Taksang is the most sacred of all. The name means "tiger's nest" and it is where a temple was built on the precipice where the holy Padma Sambhava is believed to have arrived astride a tigress.
About three hours up from the foot of the mountain, we trekked through forests of blossoming rhododendron and mossy cypress.

From the overlook at a tea house near the summit, we saw the temple looking just as the legends have it, again and again appearing and disappearing in the mist. The first thing that comes to mind on seeing the group of temples from here is the simple question, "why in such a place?". It appears that the only way to reach the monastery is to scale inaccessible cliffs that one sees all around it. Like the mountain temples in Tibet, this monastery was built in the most difficult, dangerous place. I can't imagine how harsh life must be there on top of those windy cliffs in winter, when it would be nearly impossible to get enough food and fuel. Only for the sake of something very precious would one abandon the world for such a place.

I have come now because when I came to Taksang for the first time last year, I wasn't able to photograph as they were rebuilding the monastery after a fire that had occurred several years before. Now, despite being so recently refurbished, the buildings stand in the clouds as though they have been there for thousands of years.

I confirm my idea again, that the "sacredness" of a sacred place is within the geographic atmosphere, and not limited to the architectural objects.

I searched up and down the cliff, looking for a place to photograph, and decided to make an image of the monastery at sunrise the next day from the stairway, which set up for pilgrims. I got the staff up at 4:00 am and had them help carry the equipment to the stairway. The monastery was still dark. A lone lantern was the only thing that indicated anything being there at all.

One by one, I adjusted the legs of the tripod and set up the camera where I'd marked the place yesterday.
Just as I got the camera in place, I began to see the silhouettes of temple buildings against a sky filling with dawning light. I couldn't take my eyes from the sight of the temples in the mist billowing up from all sides. They would appear one moment, then disappear the next. For three hours I was transfixed with tense excitement by the shifting light and clouds.

When it all cleared, the entire scene was lit flat in the late morning sun, as if the intense scene moments ago had been an illusion. I found myself standing there as if mere shadow, with seven exposed films.