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Zen Young Men: Photographing Buddhist Monks in Sri Lanka

I love the variety of expressions these monks have

During my recent trip to Sri Lanka, I really enjoyed photographing the young monks that I encountered in the ancient city of Anuradhapura. Novice monks tend to travel in packs, and rock shaved heads and ochre and saffron robes, making them highly visible.

Buddhist monks have always been one of my favorite subjects to photograph, much because they are unfazed by cameras and willing photographic subjects.

Looking back at these group shots, which I shot with my Canon DSLR, the way these young monks react to the camera is charming. It’s not uncommon for Buddhists to enter the monastery at a young age. Sometimes it’s a lifetime commitment, other times it is for a brief phase as sort of a right of passage.

Some monks looked directly into my camera lens, others were a little shy and looked away

The adolescent factor often trumps their emerging zen, so it’s not unusual to get a young monk to crack a smirk or a smile. I found this range of expressions charming and interesting. I also loved the variety of body language. Why is it that youth around the globe seem to think crossing their arms makes them look cool?

Shooting from a lower angle, I loved the added detail of the monk in the background

Such great eyes and ears which are further highlighted by these monks shaved heads. I loved the monks’ different expressions, and the “Where’s Waldo” monk next to the tree in the background

I loved the brightly colored robes and interesting expressions

This monk has mastered Zen cool, but seemed almost swallowed up by the folds of his robes

Giggling, smiling Buddhist monks. What’s not to like?