ANCIENT:(L)Photographer McDermott captured a twisted tree at the temple site Ta Prohm, which is part of the archeological site Angkor, in Cambodia.(R)TEMPLE MOUNTAIN: Bakong is an early temple mountain constructed by rulers of the Khmer Empire in the 9th century. The photograph is taken in infrared to contrast the foliage of the trees to the stone ruins.(Courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Galleries)
Reflections on Angkor on display in Los Angeles
By Robin Kemker
Epoch Times Staff
Created: Mar 3, 2011
LOS ANGELES—John McDermott, an American photographer, has been declared the “Ansel Adams of Angkor.” Stepping into the Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Beverly Hills, Calif., the visitor is easily caught off-guard by McDermott’s photo series “Elegy: Reflections on Angkor,” a study of the stone temple ruins in Cambodia.
The collection is on display in LA until March 12. There are a total of 30 prints.
McDermott wanted to preserve the temple site through photography in a form that would convey the “dark, mysterious spirit” of the area, which, at the time, was almost uninhabited.
To create this effect, he used black-and-white photography with specialized film. Several images were taken during an eclipse of the sun in 1995, giving the images a mysterious quality.
The gallery’s presentation uses silver gelatin prints and archival pigment ink prints that bring a surreal and unique visual experience to the photos. Some photos were taken in infrared to contrast the foliage and monks to the stone ruins. McDermott’s photos were taken over several visits to the area from 1995 to 2008.
According to UNESCO, Angkor is considered one of the most-important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia, stretching over some 100 square miles, including forested terrain. Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the 9th to the 14th century.
The remains include the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom with its countless sculptural decorations and the famous Temple of Angkor. The area became overgrown with jungle and hidden from Western society for four centuries.
Of additional interest are the numerous reservoirs that supported the city and its agriculture for 1,000 years. Angkor Wat, which refers to the area, means “the city that became a temple.”
ANOTHER WORLD:(R)Huge stone faces at Bayon, Angkor Thom, Cambodia, are silent evidence of people's belief in Buddhism during the Khmer Empire, which flourished from the 9th to the 14th century. (L)MASSIVE REMAINS: An elephant in the West Gate of Cambodian UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Thom, meaning "Great City," gives an idea of the size of the remains from the Khmer Empire. elephant in the West Gate of Cambodia. (Courtesy of Sundaram Tagore Galleries)
The sheer massiveness of the architecture boggles the mind. Without an elephant shown in the entrance to the temple city, one could not perceive the size of the entrance by looking at the photos. Is it any wonder that the natives thought giants built the city?
McDermott could foresee the coming commercialization of the area and wanted to preserve the unspoiled nature of the site. Angkor has, in fact, become an international tourist attraction. Many of McDermott’s photos cannot be taken again at the same angles because of the subsequent development on the site.
UNESCO stabilized and repaired various ruins in two phases from 1994 to 2005, spending over $20 million. In 2004, Angkor was removed from the UNESCO list of endangered sites.
For those interested in ancient Asian history or unusual photography techniques and presentation, this exhibit is a must-see.
For more photos see: www.sundaramtagore.com/exhibitions/2011-02-17_john-mcdermott/