At a Glance
Oasis of Silence, photography on Buddhism in Asia by Beat Presser has been cancelled.
The FCC Permanent Collection, four decades of Cambodian history in photographs.
The upcoming visit of legendary Swiss photographer Beat Presser presents a unique, perhaps once in a lifetime, opportunity for any film buff or photography nut fortunate enough to be in Phnom Penh this month.
Born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1952, Presser studied as a photographer and cameraman in Paris and New York, becoming editor of the photo magazines the Palm Beach News and The Village Cry. He gained recognition in the early 1980s through his close collaboration with pioneering German filmmaker Werner Herzog and his enigmatic star Klaus Kinski.
Herzog, considered one of the most influential filmmakers in New German Cinema, gained notoriety not only for his eccentric films but also for famously pushing himself and his crew to unprecedented lengths in order to achieve his demands. His stormy relationship with Kinski is the stuff of cinematic legend, complete with death threats and physical violence while on the movie set.
There to document it all was Presser. As the still photographer for such films as “Fitzcarraldo,” “Cobra Verde,” and “Invincible,” Presser gathered the material for two of his many books, “Klaus Kinski-portrayed by Beat Presser” published in 2000 and “Werner Herzog” published in 2003.
But there’s much more to the prolific Presser. Currently working as a freelance photographer and filmmaker he produces photographic stories and exhibitions that have been shown around the world. He also teaches at photo and film institutions in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia, and his work is on permanent exhibit at the Beyeler Foundation and the Tinguely Museum in Basel.
From December 6, 2007, to January 20, 2008, Presser’s “Oasis of Silence” will be shown at the FCC Phnom Penh. “Oasis,” which originated as a photo art book, presents images of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The exhibit is presently showing at the Patravadi Theater in Bangkok under the sponsorship of the Swiss Embassy.
The power of Buddhism
The genesis of the exhibition goes back some 35 years. In the early 1970s, Presser was in an auto accident while traveling in Thailand. He was left with a severely damaged spine and was nearly paralyzed. He was referred to a Buddhist monastery, and put in the care of its abbot, a well-known healer. Within weeks, Presser had completely recovered. According to Presser, at this moment he made a vow to create a photographic work on Buddhism, should he ever become the photographer he intended to be.
Between 2000 and 2004 Presser returned to Asia and lived in monasteries in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. He also traveled extensively to capture what he felt was the essence of Buddhism. “Oasis of Silence,” first published in German in 2005, was the first result.
With the “Oasis of Silence” project Presser is fulfilling his promise. His own journey allowed him to portray Buddhism from a very personal perspective, while simultaneously capturing the philosophy’s timeless beauty and wisdom.
Presser’s web site describes his photography as “an effective, artistic approach to intercultural exchange, proposing an ‘inside perspective’ of the daily practice of Buddhism.”
More than that, the photography in “Oasis of Silence” offers a spectacular aesthetic experience, and reflects the spiritual essence of Buddhist philosophy. As Presser writes, it comes with a “fresh eye” and offers a new perspective on an age-old reality.
While “Oasis of Silence” will visit the five Theravada countries that it documents first, the tour will be extended to India and to neighboring countries, and will be concluded with a regional event in Singapore.