Friday, 21 March 2014

Dagoba fatigue in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka's old capital

A dagoba is a Sri Lankan temple.  In fact it's a completely solid construction in the shape of a huge bell on top of which is a spire, of sorts.  You'll find a dagoba in pretty much every town, city or village in Sri Lanka and, unlike many other Asian temples, these are completely solid - the dagoba usually has a prayer hall separate to the main structure but it's to the dagoba and what it represents that many come to worship.
This is one of the most famous Dagobas in the whole island, Ruwanweli Seya.  It's not big, but it has a long history dating back to the kings who ruled Sri Lanka from Anaradhapura in the 2nd century BC. The site itself is reminiscent of Ayutthaya in Thailand, acres of old stone structures now little more than foundations and rubble. Dotted here and there lie many dagobas. Problem is, to the Western eye, one dagoba looks very much like the next one so you can suffer dagoba fatigue quite quickly. Happily we found some relief in this temple, the 3rd century BC Isurumini Rajamaha Viharaya (sacred rock) and its garishly-painted Buddha images.

One of Sri Lanka's oldest and most holy dagobas - in Anaradhapura...
Not terribly interesting to photograph, especially in 35 degree heat.
This was set out at about the same time as ancient Rome. Interesting to compare...
This was more like it. Obviously there was a special on the day-glo paint. No added Photoshop needed here. I loved the kitsch style and colours.
I'm told that Buddha images come in a range of colours, depending on the whim of those doing the painting. These monks must have been extroverts!

Next time you grumble about having to repaint a white ceiling, think how these guys must have felt!
A small elephant bronze outside the dagoba prayer hall
I find that shooting from the side, often using a wide aperture (EF85mm f1.8 lens)
creates a far stronger separation between subject and background than if shot head on.
Here's another example where getting in close and exposing with a wide aperture creates a strong visual look to the image.
Essentially by de-focussing the background, you are presenting only a specific part of the subject and it's this quality that makes the image radically different to the thousands of tourist shots that are taken by standing right in front of the subject and shooting without any thought for creating something different...
Could be Roman? Again I shot at f1.8 to get minimal depth of focus and to separate the statue from the busy background.

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