Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now is spend some time at our local mosques.  The area where we live is heavily influenced by Tibetan culture, Chinese culture, and also Islamic culture.  It’s actually pretty amazing to watch how that plays out in a city like this.

Today I made it a point to spend some time with a buddy who speaks Arabic, the local dialect, and Chinese fluently to take a quick tour of these cultural treasures.  I took my buddy along because speaking any of those languages (I speak Chinese and 5% of the local dialect) gives you great respect in the locals eyes.  Per usual we spent more time sitting and chatting than we did taking pictures – sitting and chatting is one of my favorite parts of photography.

Nonetheless, I want to touch on one point here.  I knew that these trips were going to be more building relationship than spending 5 hours taking pictures of whatever I wanted.  I was happy to do that and I was happy to listen to old men tell stories for almost 5 hours.  If you read my post about how we all pay back in one way or another you will get a good insight into my strong belief that great images come from “paying” for them.  In this case, I was making a deposit in the future.

I could have very easily run up into these mosques and shot to my hearts content – all the while building no relationships and making them all feel incredibly uncomfortable.  I wonder how many photo opportunities we eventually destroy with a camera?

I live literally 5 minutes away from these mosques and have the opportunity to go back, if desired, on a daily basis.  I’d be foolish to not build some strong relationships with these folks before I intended to shoot 300+ images there in one day.  I’ve gotta respect them and they have to respect me because we share the same city – I’m not passing through.

Some notes on these pictures below:  The first image is the ritualistic washing that one must undertake before heading into the mosque for prayer.  The old man below is transcribing the whole Koran.  Also, notice the Tibetan architecture that exists in these Mosques that you won’t find anywhere else in the entire world.  I’ve been in no less than two dozen monasteries throughout this area and they all look like this mosque does on the inside – yet these places serve two very different purposes.  Also Tibetan symbols such as the lotus and the “eternity knot” are strongly tied into the architecture here – mind blowing.  These are Muslims and not Buddhists.