Mar201023
Wat Bang Phra Tattoo Festival
12:36 PM
56691_thailand_tattoo_festival-1.jpgAt the Buddhist temple in Wat Bang Phra, about 30 miles (50km) west of Bangkok, Thailand, devotees (and spectators) gather every year to receive Sak Yant -- tattoos believed to imbue the wearers with magical powers -- at the Wai Khru ceremony.

Wai Khru translates as Honor the Teacher, and that teacher revered has been the abbot of Wat Bang Phra. In her Globe & Mail article, Jennifer Gampell explains:

"More magical than intellectual, his special skills involved applying talismanic tattoos and -- even more important -- activating them. His tough-guy students believe that empowered tattoos will protect them from danger (gunshots, knife thrusts, road accidents) and endow them with positive personality traits.

For example, Hanuman (the monkey god) is supposedly a great and clever fighter; dragons are brave and wise; geckos are loving. Since the empowering spells wear off over time, true believers like to recharge their talismanic batteries at least once a year."


These "superhuman" tattoos are featured in a CNN video of this year's festival.  


Best illustrating the festival are the stunning photos of Gavin Gough, including the one shown above of an enraptured devotee. Gavin's images move from the intimacy of the monk's needle penetrating skin to the writhing crowds outside the temple. A descriptive introduction and captions offer further context.

I encourage you to explore more of Gavin's work online. [You can also find his photography in Vanity Fair, Nat Geo, The NY Times, among so many other publications. His stock photography has also graced postage stamps and billboards.]

For budding and seasoned photographers seeking to capture Thailand on their own with some guidance, check Gavin's Bangkok Photo School and private workshops.

I'll be checking in on Gavin's blog for more beautiful images of body art and beyond.

[Thanks to Brayden for directing me to the Wai Khru photos.]
3 Comments

Wow. Compared to these guys I'm just kind of lukewarm about tattoos.

Thais are the Danes of Asia. They're so cool.



And so much for all of our "reasons" for getting tattooed.

Tracy

P.S. Gavin Gough's photos of the festival are something else.



^^ Amen ^^

Gough's photographs are pretty goddamned stunning.





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