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The story behind that picture: "The Sri Lanka Sunday School"

By: Thorsten Overgaard


In January 2005 I visited Sri Lanka and India to document the relief work after the tsunami. I spent an hour in a quiet Buddhist sunday school at Sri Subodharma Monastery in Sri Lanka

As a small oasis in the devastation after the tsunami that hit South East Asia in December 2004, the Scientology Volunteer Ministers and I visited the Sri Subodharma Monastery in Kandy in the center of beautiful Sri Lanka.

I was in Sri Lanka and India for thee weeks to document the relief work carried out mainly by the Church of Scientology's corps of 496 Volunteer Ministers (members of the church who had taken weeks or months off from their daytime jobs to help after the tsunami). The result can be seen in the book After the Tsunami and the accompanying slideshows.

Some of the kids playing with me as I tried to "not be there"

We visited the monastry to coordinate relief work, but for me it was an hour or two hanging out with the kids from Kingswood College in Candy who were attending their weekly sunday school at the monastry.

In fact, schools were one of the first things that was re-established first througout the areas in South East Asia that was hit by the tsunami. Some places kids were back to school just two days after, even in the coast areas devastated the first tents supplied was used for just that.

The art of not being there

Normally I can sneak around and nobody will notice me. But as a blond white adult with three cameras amongst 200 kids ... it's not that easy.

Normally, if you stand still and don't make eye contact, people who notice you will forget about you. That works in streets and in cafés where people may notice you, but then forget about you again.

After some rolls of film and trying to be a stone, I eventually suceeded in getting a few photos in between where nobody was looking straight into the camera. As the one on top that has the extra little detail with the feets...

A peaceful moment at the monastry for Scientolgy Volunteer Minister Jennifer Chandra in a schedule that only allowed few hours of sleep.

For more on this story, and the free eBook, visit

Thorsten Overgaard, November 29, 2011



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Buddhist Sunday School in Sri Lanka. Leitz Leicaflex SL Mot with Leica 80mm Summulux-M f/1.4 on 100 ISO Fujichrome Astia 100F slide film.


For more on this story, and the free eBook, visit



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Thorsten Overgaard
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

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