All of that was extremely interesting and well-written, Ray, and has made me want to find out more. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.
The problem is that a photograph has to stand on its own (visual) merits. Unless of course it was intended to be an illustration for an article about Angkor Wat.
Well, thanks for thanking me.
I understand what you mean, but I wonder if any
photograph (or painting) really does stand on its own visual merits. Surely it always needs an interpretation (by the viewer) to be fully appreciated, and such interpretation always requires some degree of cultural familiarity with the subject matter or content.
Returning to Art Wolfe's article, I see his final comment on the image is as follows:
Ordinarily, the bright vertical strip of sun lit sandstone would bother me, but in this case it seems like a border between the past and present and accentuates the verticals of the temple's pillars.
Without any cultural interpretation, the vertical sunlit strip of sandstone seems a compositional flaw. I would prefer it to be toned down, but not necessarily as much as I indicated in a previous post. These sorts of things are always very subjective judgements.
For me, the reason that Art gives us, that it seems an appropriate border between the past and present, doesn't work for me because I understand that the present, on the right side of the image, is symbolically even further in the past than the bas-relief dancing ladies on the left. Buddhism is 2,500 years old, as symbolized by the red robe the monk is wearing, whereas the temple he's sitting in is only about 1,000 years old.
One major problem when trying to get good photographs of the temples at Angkor, is that there are so many tourists infuriatingly always in the way. The only people one really wants to see in one's photos are those who fit naturally into the environment, such as Buddhist monks or Apsara dancing ladies.