Buddhists revere images of the Buddha for their ‘saxit’ – sacredness. People may sense spiritual energy, but showing that invisible force is a challenge. My aim in this photographic series of Buddha images is to reveal the hidden power within.
We can read the Buddha’s postures and gestures as a symbolic language. These figures convey a serenity that aids meditation. They gleam with gold, lacquer, stucco or the patina from incense smoke. Thai Buddha images are especially celebrated for their beauty and grace of line. But that surface is not my concern. More important is what dwells inside.
Thais believe that sacred objects accumulate spiritual energy. That power can drain over time, but gets replenished through prayer. I sought to convey this elusive ‘saxit’ by reversing some photographic clichés.
Buddha images in ruined ancient cities are located outdoors, so most pictures of them look sun-drenched, dry and visually hot. Shooting at night brought out the blues, blacks and cooler tones. Silhouetting the Buddhas and stupas minimised their familiar surface. This reduced distraction from the enigmatic space within their pointed outline, which sends energy skyward.
I visualised the ‘saxit’ using spots of coloured light that evoke the ‘Bokeh Effect’, created by a camera lens when points of light slip out of focus. I brought these background dots forward into the subject of the composition. I call this technique ‘Reverse Bokeh’.
Thais sense spiritual energy in many ways, whether the sound of chanting, the shape of diagrams or the scent of offerings. The camera senses light. Buddhism, too, uses light to convey meaning. A flickering candle symbolises wisdom, while reflections from multi-faceted surfaces show dissemination of the dharma in all directions. Thais line temples with coloured mirror tiles, clad stupas with gilded plates, and embed gems into sacred objects, showing ‘saxit’ through a kind of Bokeh Effect. Dappled light hints at the sacred energy within. Understanding that inner light is enlightenment.