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The Warrior Monks of the Golden Horse Monastery – Jack Picone, 2005

10 July 2008

It is two pm in the unforgiving tropical heat as the young novice monks lie quietly on their horses in a mountain stream, high up on the Thai/Burmese border, but their daily rituals begin much earlier.

At two am their sleep is shattered as the call to worship ricochets around the spectacular limestone peaks that cradle the mountain-top monastery. From the moment the novices awake they follow a strict regimen. The abbot, Khru Ba, first supervises a bout of calisthenics, then the teenagers wash in a freezing mountain stream. At sunrise they don their customary saffron robes, gather their bowls and set off down the valley on horseback to collect alms. On their return Khru Ba spends the day drilling them in the techniques of horsemanship, Thai kick-boxing and farming, in between long sessions of prayer and meditation. The exhausted, shaven-headed boys fall into bed at nine pm.

As I made this picture, I reflected upon how these boys (mostly orphaned), who had fled Burma because of the atrocities being perpetrated there daily by the sadistic Burmese Junta, where now out of harms way and in a safe haven. I tried to imagine what it must have been like for them to witness their parents being killed and their villages razed and to have to flee their homeland, but I realized it was beyond my comprehension.

Over the last fifteen years, Australian-born Jack Picone’s reportage images have featured regularly in international magazines, newspapers and NGO projects. His clients include Time, Life, Liberation, Der Spiegel, Stern, Mare, L’Express, Colors, Tempo, Granta, Marie Claire, The Independent (UK), The Observer, as well as organisations such as CARE, ActionAid, MSF and others.

In the 1990s Jack covered eight wars. He achieved some notable news coverage, and was particularly intent on capturing the plight of ordinary people caught up in the extraordinary violence in places like Yugoslavia, Somalia, Rwanda, Palestine, Liberia, Sudan and Soviet Central Asia.

For the last decade Jack has been committed to documenting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS for the London-based Terence Higgins Aids Trust as part of the huge “Positive Lives” project.

He is the recipient of significant international awards including World Press Photo Amsterdam, POY (Photographer of the Year awards in the USA) and the Fifty Crows Award for Documentary Photography. His work has been exhibited in major galleries worldwide.

Now based in Bangkok, Thailand, Jack works on global assignments and is the founder of WorkShopAsia, a series of regular photojournalism workshops tutored by world-renowned photographers focusing on the Asian region.

Photographer since 1984, EPUK member since 2008.

See more work by Jack Picone

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