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Guest Authors - Martin Gray

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My career as a photographer of sacred architecture and pilgrimage sites began when I was a young boy. My father was in the US diplomatic service and because of this I was privileged to travel widely around the world. Archaeology and photography were my father's hobbies and my mother was highly educated in classical music and painting, thus from my earliest years I was immersed in the arts and antiquities of foreign cultures. When I was twelve years old our family moved to India for four years. During this period I went on frequent journeys, both alone and in the company of wandering holy men, to the temples, mosques and sacred caves of India, Nepal and Kashmir. Reading extensively in the
fields of Buddhism and Hinduism, and fascinated with the mystery of the sacred places, I dreamed of one day producing an anthropological guidebook and photographic atlas of the great Asian pilgrimage shrines. After my family's return to the United States I entered the University of Arizona with the intention of studying Mesoamericam archaeology but soon left, drawn back to India by the call of the spiritual quest and the desire to become a mountain hermit in the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. While living in northern India I became a member of a monastic order and for the next ten years, both in India and the west, cultivated a deep practice of meditation.

At the age of twenty-eight I left monastic life behind, returned to the US, and started two travel companies. Within three years these companies were moving thousands of people each year to the Caribbean and Mexico, and I was becoming a very successful businessman. 

Machu Picchu, Peru

Photograph courtesy of
and Martin Gray

Yet there was an emptiness in my heart and soul for I yearned to do something more aligned with my spiritual practices. My prayers were soon answered. On a journey to South America, visiting the archaeological sites of Easter Island and Machu Picchu, I experienced a powerful reawakening of my interest in ancient sacred places. So strong was this interest that I decided to pursue my earlier ambition of photographing the world's great sacred architecture.

Returning to the US, I sold my lucrative companies and began a thirty year period of traveling as a wandering pilgrim to over 1000 sacred sites in more than 135 countries around the world. 

Traveling mostly by bicycle and living as a monk at hundreds of temples, monasteries and sacred mountains, I conducted exhaustive mythological and anthropological study and extensive photographic documentation of the sites.

While engaged in these travels and research, I also created a multi-projector slide show that communicates the extraordinary beauty and profound contemporary relevance of the sacred sites.

During the past twenty-five years, I have presented this slide show to more than 135,000 people at museums, universities and conferences around the United States, South America and Europe.

There have been three primary motivations for my research and travels to the world's sacred sites. 

One motivation has been to gather evidence showing that pre industrial cultures throughout the world recognized the Earth to be a sacred being worthy of deep respect and gentle treatment. Studying the development of sanctity at sacred sites, it is clear that many ancient peoples had a reverential relationship with the living earth. If such a relationship can be reawakened and encouraged in our own culture, we will be better able to address the crisis of worldwide ecological degradation. Many people, after seeing my sacred site slide show, report a deepening of their connection to and concern for the Earth. From such deepening arises a commitment to personal behaviors and larger social actions which make positive contributions to life. The slide show is thus a powerful tool for assisting the emergence of global ecological consciousness.

A second motivation has been to photographically document the world's great sacred architecture before it is forever lost to the ravages of modernization and industrial pollution. Sacred architecture represents the greatest concentration
and the most sublime example of humanity's artistic expression. Due to their outdoor locations, however, these great art pieces do not receive the protection which paintings and sculpture receive in environmentally controlled museums. It is
my hope, through the frequent and wide presentation of my slide shows, to stimulate an increased public awareness of both the value and fragility of these wondrous works of art.

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

Photograph courtesy of www.sacredsites.com and Martin Gray

A third motivation has been to study the miraculous phenomena frequently reported at sacred sites. A growing body of evidence indicates that there is indeed a density of holiness that saturates the locality of the pilgrimage places and
that this holiness, or field of energy, contributes to a wide variety of beneficial human experiences. The living earth has much to teach us human beings and the ancient sacred sites are classrooms where this instruction is abundantly given. For further insights on the above matters, please refer to my web site at www.sacredsites.com.

Sacred Sites Books

Sacred Earth

Sacred Earth is written and photographed by Martin Gray and is the culmination of twenty-five years of travel to hundreds of sacred sites in more than one hundred countries.


Articles by Martin Gray (local link)

Sacred Life: Coins of the Natural World

NEW: Sacred Life, Coins of the Natural World features black and white photographs of 360 different coins from 130 countries. The coins were photographed with close-up lenses and the photographs are printed so that each coin is shown three inches in diameter. The magnification of the coins allows the beauty of their images to be clearly seen. The coins were minted in the 19th and 20th centuries. On the coins are shown images of animals, plants, birds, aquatics, reptiles and insects. The theme of the book is that we have living beings shown on our money, letís use that money to protect life.


About the Author

Martin Gray is an anthropologist and photographer specializing in the study of sacred sites, holy places and pilgrimage traditions. During a twenty-five year period he traveled extensively in more than one hundred and twenty-five countries to study and photograph many hundreds of sacred places of prehistoric, historic and contemporary cultures. Martin is an expert in the subjects of ancient religion, sacred geography, archaeoastronomy and ecopsychology. In 1997, Martin placed the web site Places of Peace and Power at SacredSites.com on the Internet and since that time more than thirty-five million people have visited the site. In 2004 National Geographic published The Geography of Religion of which Martin was the principal photographer. In 2007, Sterling, an imprint of Barnes & Noble, published Sacred Earth, a large format book of his color photographs of sacred sites in 80 countries. In 2009, Sacred Earth was published in Japan and Russia. Martinís photographs and writings have been featured internationally in documentaries, newspapers, magazines, books and web sites, and he has presented slide shows at museums, conferences and universities for more than 125,000 people.

Author's Web Sites and Contact Information

This web site discusses Martin's pilgrimage journeys, features many of his photographs and writings, lists calendar details of upcoming slide shows, gives information regarding book and photograph orders, and has links to related sites.

Places of Peace and Power

Since ancient times, sacred sites have had a mysterious allure for billions of people around the world. Legends and contemporary reports tell of extraordinary experiences people have had while visiting these places. Different sacred sites have the power to heal the body, enlighten the mind and inspire the heart. What is the key to the mystery of the sacred sites and how are we to explain their power?

Anthropologist Martin Gray has spent thirty years studying and photographing hundreds of sacred sites in more than one hundred and twenty-five countries. On this web site Martin discusses the mythology and history of sacred sites and presents a fascinating explanation of the miraculous phenomena that occur at them.

Martinís photographs have been featured by National Geographic and UNESCO, and in newspapers, magazines, books, documentaries and galleries around the world.

Sacred sites, religious pluralism and tolerance

In these times of worsening religious extremism it would be of great benefit for us all to realize that at their core each of the different religions are saying the same thing. They are proclaiming that God is one, and that all things, all people are born from that oneness. In God there are no differences, no separations. Only oneness, sameness. Equality. Irrespective of the creed - Christian, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu - all people praise and pray to the same indivisible divinity. We must realize this. We all love and are loved by the same God. If we recognize this, and affirm it with our actions, we will be an immeasurable force for religious tolerance in the world. The sacred sites, the pilgrimage places illustrated here are where people most passionately give praise and prayer to God. Go there, be present in that divinity, be in love with that love.

Sacred Sites Book Now Available!

Barnes & Noble has published a large-format book of Martinís photographs called Sacred Earth.

Martin Gray Stock Photography: You can purchase over 700 photographs from Martin Gray's portfolio from National Geographic Image Collection.  Visit the National Geographic Image Collection and search on "Martin Gray" 



General Inquiries can be made by E-Mail.

Sacred Sites Newsletter

If you wish to be on my Sacred Sites email list and receive a free newsletter several times a year, Subscribe here. When you subscribe, you are automatically entered each month in our Sacred Sites Fine Art Print Giveaway.

Contacting Martin Directly

Many people want to write to me and I am very open to receiving correspondence. If you have questions, suggestions or information regarding sacred sites that I do not know about, please write to me by E-mail or at:

Martin Gray
PO 4111
Sedona, AZ 86340

© 2012 Martin Gray. 
All rights reserved. Presented with permission.

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Articles by Martin Gray (local link)

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