Explorer Profile: Josh Bulriss and The Buddha Project

Explorer and Professional Photographer Josh Bulriss, reflects on traveling across Asia in pursuit of capturing what is arguably, the most extensive collection of Buddha Imagery in the World.

Josh in Ellora Caves, India

A Journey of Love, Loss and Discovery

The inception of the Buddha Project emerged following the loss of my mother in 2014. At that pivotal moment, I felt a profound calling to embark on a project that would not only honor her memory but also showcase my passion for photography, a journey she had always supported. Having spent extensive time traversing Asia, I had already immersed myself in capturing images that resonated deeply with my sense of tranquility. Asia, in many ways, had become my second home.

One recurring subject that had always captivated me was the depiction of Buddha in various forms. It dawned on me: What if I initiated a project dedicated to capturing some of the most exceptional Buddha statues scattered across the globe and photographing them as an art form?

The first step in a project like this is extensive mapping. I printed out maps of each country I wanted to visit and began circling potential locations. There’s no quick way to do this. I would Google each province and check for any Buddhist sites that might interest me. (Some countries, like Thailand with its 76 provinces, made it quite time-consuming.) I later discovered that sometimes you won’t find certain locations if you’re only searching in English because many are listed in the native language. Additionally, I learned that visiting museums is just as crucial as exploring the ancient sites themselves. I didn’t initially consider this until later in the journey. Most (though not all) of the older and more significant Buddha statues can be found in museums. When on a trip like this, you don’t want to waste time, money, or miss out on something significant. Conducting thorough research before embarking on a project like this is incredibly valuable. However, it’s essential to understand that plans may evolve, and research remains ongoing throughout the journey. Engaging with the local communities can lead you to hidden gems you might have otherwise missed. For me, this kind of expedition is a perpetual evolution, marked by change and continuous growth.

Wat Phou Champousek, Laos

Before commencing this project, I realized that having assistance in certain locations could elevate it to a whole new level. Consequently, I reached out to a Thai resident and sought their help. Initially, our plan was to explore the vibrant city of Bangkok for a couple of days. However, as our conversations deepened, our plan expanded organically. What was initially a brief excursion evolved into an extensive three-week journey, allowing us to explore the nooks and crannies of central Thailand.

After exploring central Thailand, Tara and I made the decision to continue our travels. It wasn’t solely our shared love for each other’s company that fueled this decision, but also our mutual passion for exploration and discovery. Tara, who is now my wife, and I have known each other since 2016 and got married in May 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand. This project not only brought us together but also strengthened our bond with each adventure we undertook.

Josh and his wife Tara, in India

Together, we have traversed eight countries across Asia, united by our quest to unearth some of the most unique and captivating Buddha statues in the world. Tara has since relocated to the United States, where we have continued our journey by exploring museums across the country in search of intriguing Buddha artifacts.

In December of 2019, my wife and I led our first Central Thailand tour. We took a group across our favorite Buddhist sites spanning 8 provinces. Having the chance to share some of our cherished locations with others was one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.

This project has not only enriched our lives but has also deepened our appreciation for art, culture, and the shared human experience. As we look to the future, we remain committed to this project, viewing it not as a mere endeavor but as an enduring testament to our shared passion for discovery and exploration.

Polunawara Sri Lanka

This project has truly been a journey of self-discovery, emphasizing the importance of relishing the journey as much as reaching the destination. It has taught me the art of flexibility, the value of being fully present in the moment, and the significance of mindfulness in the pursuit of happiness. The ability to find contentment in various situations and to gracefully adapt to changing circumstances is a skill that we can all strive to develop. It may not be easy, but it is undoubtedly worth the effort. For me, photography has evolved into a form of meditation. When I’m behind the camera, capturing the essence of Buddha statues, I am completely immersed in the present moment, connected to the here and now. Above all else, the Buddha Project has bestowed upon me a profound sense of purpose. It stands as a testament to the transformative power of wholeheartedly pursuing one’s passion. Through this project, I have discovered not only the beauty of art and culture but also the richness of human connections and the boundless potential for personal growth.

Josh Bulriss’s photography has been published all over the world, gracing the covers of books and magazines alike. For more information on his work, head to joshbulriss.com or follow him on twitter @Joshbulriss

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