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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
|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
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.
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 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)
|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.