A Temple (or Three) a Day

 | Tue 12 Nov 2013 11:38 ICT

Citynews – Self-proclaimed “amateurish” photographer Stephane Canal has taken on a daunting challenge. Just a couple of months ago, he decided that he would photograph every single Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai. Here, we asked Stephane to share some details about his project.


Citylife: Where are you from and what brought you to Chiang Mai?


Stephane: I am French but I have spent most of life abroad (mainly in Africa). I came for the first time to Thailand in 2000; this was also my first time in Asia. My wife and I came several times to Chiang Mai to spend some time during vacations and in 2008 we decided to buy a house here. At the end of 2011 we moved back from Africa to reside in Chiang Mai.

Citylife: What is your background? Is photography your main focus or do you have another job?


Stephane: I used to work in logistics for the oil industry; I do not have any artistic background. I have been taking pictures for a long time as an amateurish photographer.  Lots of people around me liked my pictures so I decided to start posting them on Facebook pages to see how unknown people are reacting (www.facebook.com/pages/Temples-of-Chiang-Mai/1426065944288199).

Beside the temples, I opened another page for the pictures I took of graffiti found in Chiang Mai (www.facebook.com/chiangmaigraffitis).

My wife has an art gallery (www.facebook.com/BanKanitaArtGallery) and as growing hobby I am creating pieces (paintings, lamps, sculptures, etc.) to help her.  

Citylife: What made you decide to take on this project?

Stephane: I have noticed that most of the magazines, websites, and tourist guides covering Chiang Mai are always referring to the same temples. These are, of course, beautiful ones, but they are not the only ones. When driving around Chiang Mai for my graffiti project I saw many small temples  that I did not know and had not even heard about. This is how I came up with the idea to make this project and share my findings with as many people as possible. Since it is a quite big project I limited the project (at least to start with) to a radius of 10km from Chiang Mai centre. Last week I launched a Facebook page and I update it on daily basis with 1 to 3 temples.

Citylife: How many temples are in Chiang Mai? 

Stephane: That is a very good question and I do not have the answer; as per what I read there are between 3 to 400 but it never specifies which area they are talking about. I heard also the figure of 1,000 for the whole province. I can tell you that within the old city of Chiang Mai there are 40 of them. So far I have covered 50 total temples in Chiang Mai province.


Citylife: What have been the challenges?

Stephane: What are the challenges should you ask since I am still taking pictures of temples and I am probably still closer to the beginning of my project than its end. The main challenge is to locate the temples; while a lot are pointed on maps or Google, it is not all of them. Other than that, I just have to be patient when there are too many people in order to take my shots without the crowd. 

Citylife: The rewards?


Stephane: My reward is to see the number of followers on the Facebook page growing. 3/4 of them are people I do not know. It is for me more rewarding to see that an unknown person likes my work than it is for close friends and/or relatives who may talk with their kindness.

Citylife: Do you have a favourite temple?


Stephane: I might be able to answer this question when I am done with all of them but it will be a difficult one. So far, there is always something special that I like when a visit a temple; this could be an architectural detail, some painting, some statue, a tree or just its atmosphere.

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All photos by Stephane Canal