Commons Picture of the Day: A lifetime of experience

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A Mongolian Lama, photographed by Hans and Ingrid Bernhard, CC-BY-SA
A Mongolian Lama, photographed by Hans and Ingrid Bernhard, CC-BY-SA

The lines on this man’s weathered face tell of a lifetime of experiences, but of that time, we are only granted a brief glimpse through this moment captured by Hans and Ingeborg Bernhard. They continue to wonder what he was thinking.
“He passed by us very quickly,” said Hans Bernhard (user:Schnobby). The monk’s movements gave them little time to compose the photograph. “We were afraid he didn’t like to be photographed, but there was no time to ask him.”
The Bernhards took this photo of the stoic monk at the Gandan Monastery in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, as they were traveling from Russia to China in 1981. They used a Nikon F3 on Kodachrome film. They said they hope that the portrait conveys a sense of pride within his weathered features.
“We supposed he was the abbot, but we don’t really know,” said Hans Bernhard. “When I came across the shot I was looking around in the monastery, searching for nice motifs: temples, statues, carpets.”
The Bernhards first started contributing to Wikimedia Commons in January 2009, because they wanted to write an article on German Wikipedia about a famous stained glass painter who was also a colleague and friend of theirs. The article lacked depth and they sought to rectify that by illustrating it with images of the painter’s work. In order to do so they had to first upload pictures onto Commons.
Hans Bernhard started taking pictures 54 years ago, when he was 17. The first pictures he took were of “the moon, landscapes and animals.” He began putting his photography skills to professional use when he began his career as a stained glass painter.
“During my 45 years as a stained glass painter, I had to take photos of old and new stained glass windows,” he said. These windows were photographed not only in workshops but in cathedrals and public buildings as well. His camera of choice was a Linhof 4×5 inch sheet film camera.
“Besides this professional task, I preferred and still like to take photos of astronomical sights and events such as the moon, comets and solar eclipses. In general I’m photographing wherever I stay: on holidays, at concerts or in our garden.”
(View more photos by the Bernhards.)
Story by Jordan Hu, Communications Intern
Reporting by Elaine Mao, Communications Intern 

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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I’m really delighted to see these “story of the picture of the day” pieces. Is there any chance they could be linked from the Commons image descriptions, though? We’ll lose track of them, otherwise…