portraits

Well Met - Vijay, Duba, & the Galta Monkey Temple by Matt Treager

I'm near finished editing through the almost 8,000 photos I took while traveling around SE Asia and India. In the meantime, I thought I'd make another post to continue my Well Met photo project, jumping ahead a few cities to Jaipur. Below are some photos from our visit to the Galta Monkey Temple complex outside of Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. There were tons of rhesus macaque monkeys flying around, trying to steal our bags and snacks, but we were able to visit with some of the local sadhus, pilgrims, and priests and spend an afternoon wandering around the mostly deserted temple grounds (hooray for off-season touring!) The temple's main attractions are the spring-fed pools, which are rather auspicious to bath in for Hindu pilgrims that visit.

Vijay / Galtaji - Jaipur, India / May 2014

Vijay / Galtaji - Jaipur, India / May 2014

Vijay is a temple priest in the Hanuman (Indian monkey god) temple at Galta. He came to the temple about 3 years ago from his home in Uttar Pradesh, and had just turned 18. As we walked around the temple grounds, he pointed to all of the different relics and Hindu gods, and what each one stood for. He also took me down into the depths of the temple to bless me with "good luck" in front of the Hanuman statue. I tried to politely decline, saying that I had no money for a donation, but he insisted anyways. After a small bit of chanting and a new string bracelet, I was freshly imbued with some luck, and we walked back up to the entrance of the temple. As we walked, I asked him how long he wanted to stay in the temple, seeing as how many of the priests come from a life outside of religion and return to it after a stay in the temple. He said that has no immediate plans to leave the temple, and in his limited English told me that he enjoys living the simple life of a priest. I asked him what advice he had about life, and he pragmatically responded, "Live life as you like." 

Duba  / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Duba / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Duba, another priest who is living with Vijay in the temple, spoke almost no English, with the exception of "Hello, sir. Please visit my temple!" But despite our lack of spoken communication, we were still able to connect through some miming and smiles. Like Vijay, Duba hails from the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, and had been living in the temple for over 12 years (from what I could gather).

Vijay, searching for signal. / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Vijay, searching for signal. / Jaipur, India / May 2014

As far as I could tell, the priests were for the most part, completely detached from the material world, living their lives as ascetics. But one thing they all seemed to posses was a cellphone that connected them (rather poorly) to the internet. So in addition to making some new acquaintances, I also had the pleasure of setting up Duba's Facebook profile, since the sign up page required more English and technical know-how than they possessed.

Setting up Facebook mobile for Duba (left), and connecting him to the wonderful world of social media.  / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Setting up Facebook mobile for Duba (left), and connecting him to the wonderful world of social media. / Jaipur, India / May 2014

As the wind started to pick up and a storm approached, it was time for Sacha and I to head back to the safety of our hotel, and I couldn't help but think I had just walked off the set of an Indiana Jones movie.

Flying macaques / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Flying macaques / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Sacha reflecting on the lower pool. / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Sacha reflecting on the lower pool. / Jaipur, India / May 2014

Ben Johnson by Matt Treager

A rocking portrait from last night. I had fun shooting my friend and fellow photographer, Ben Johnson, for some portfolio building work. He's headed off to South Korea next week to teach English for the a year, just as I had done this past year with Sacha. I wish him all the best, and safe travels. Korea won't know what hit 'em...

Ben Johnson / Bozeman, MT / August 2014

Ben Johnson / Bozeman, MT / August 2014

Well Met - Robert Rivola by Matt Treager

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I met Robert and his family at an impromptu BBQ put on by the gracious Gerard & Edelweiss Villoria. Over a meal of smoked Hawaiian ribs, we spoke more about how he and his family came to the Philippines. A citizen of Italy, Robert came to the Philippines 7 years ago to train and teach martial arts. In the Himalayan summer months, he travels with his wife and son to northern India to reside in a Tibetan monastery in Himachal Pradesh. There he studies Buddhist teachings, meditates, and teaches martial arts techniques. 

After deciding to make a more permanent residence in Boracay, in 2011 he sold his apartment in Italy and used the money to start construction on a multi-story building in Diniwid Beach, where he would reside with his family in the top apartment and rent out the lower three units to supplement his income. After three long years, the building is still in construction. Poor workmanship and dishonest contractors have plagued his efforts, so much so that this year he and his family were not able to make their annual pilgrimage to Himachal Pradesh, instead having to track down a contractor who skipped out on Robert with thousands of dollars worth of unfinished work already paid for.

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When touring his future home, he spoke of the numerous headaches he's suffered in trying to get the place finished. "The point is, you're considered stupid or naive if you're normal and honest, and smart or clever if you're a thief."

A man of strong and imposing stature, Robert is more peaceful and jolly than his physique lets off. And while other people may have succumbed to the bitterness and callousness that comes with being constantly cheated, he still retains his joyful disposition and gracious attitude. His advice to Sacha and I as we said our farewells:

"To be honest anyway. Despite what happens to you, be honest. And in seeking justice, be honest. Be honest in everything you do. If you read from every [religious] book, they all say that this is the point; to be honest."

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Well Met - Gerard Villoria by Matt Treager

This is the first in a series of posts about a project I'm working on while my wife and I are traveling/sabbatical-ing. We are nearing the end of our journey through SE Asia and India, and it's been a wonderful (and exhausting) 2.5 months. And as we look back on our trip, the best part has been the people we've met along the way.

"Well Met" is a portrait project focusing on the people that I connected on a deeper level with. I not only wanted to visit these places, but to also share in the stories of the locals. To take in their wisdom, their view of the world, and to share it with others. So along with taking their portrait, I asked each person for one bit of advice about life, or one piece of wisdom that they try to live by. I was encouraged and inspired in different ways by each person I met. I started to see that no matter where you come from or what your background is, we are all pretty much the same.

 

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Gerard was one of the first people I met in my week spent at Diniwid Beach at the beginning of our trip to the Philippines. A gregarious and easy going guy, Gerard lived in Manila before moving to Boracay Island with his family in February 2014. He is the owner of GerWeiss Motors, a company he started in 2008, manufacturing custom electric tricycles that he himself engineers and designs. 

Due to a recent pollution reducing program initiated by the local government, business has been booming at GerWeiss Station, where he hires locals to manufacture and maintain the trikes. The Station also doubles as a recharge point for drivers, and serves up refreshingly good mango and coconut shakes.

After stopping in for shakes several times, Gerard generously invited Sacha and I over for a BBQ, after which he gave me this advice: "The number one thing to have is faith, and to trust in God."

 

Batad and Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines by Matt Treager

Some photos from our visit to the rice terraces carved into the mountain sides of Banaue and Batad. Built by the indigenous tribes of the northern Cordilleras, the rice terraces are on the same ancient engineering scale as the pyramids of Egypt. Irrigated by tapped mountain springs and streams that are fed into a complex system of canals, the locals have been growing their rice here for over 2,000 years. Truly a fascinating experience to view and trek through. 

And a tip for those who visit, go with the municipal tourism group. They employ natives who are extremely knowledgeful and helpful. Also, there are no hidden fees, which you'll find with many of the non-authorized guides. Ask for Nathan Cabbigat of you can get him - he's an awesome dude. 

Batad Rice Terraces

Batad Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

Guide extraordinaire, Nathan.  

Guide extraordinaire, Nathan.  

Joe Wirtheim by Matt Treager

As an effort to build my portfolio up with more portraits, I've been taking portraits of friends and acquaintances in my down time in Jeonju. I had been planning on taking an environmental portrait of Joe, owner and artist at Victory Gardens of Tomorrow. His work advocates for sustainable farming practices, such as urban gardening and locally grown produce. I got a fire put under my butt to get a shot sooner rather than later when he approached me about commissioning a piece to appear on the blog TheHorticult.com, as his work is being featured in an upcoming article. We found an urban garden in Jeonju (they're EVERYWHERE) and set to work. Here's some of the finals - enjoy!

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