I have generally been staying out of the elements during this extended Minnesota spring. However, one week ago the sun returned to the north country, warming us all, and Minneapolis took to the streets to welcome the change of seasons. The annual May Day Parade to Powderhorn Park found me in my element, shooting freely with the Black Label Bike Club and friends…here are a few of my favorites from the glorious day.
Minnesota Monthly’s new travel guide for summer 2013 features a number of my images…out on newsstands now!
I am grateful for this photographic work on yoga. Especially for the opportunity it has offered to learn directly from very spiritually realized human beings. This journey continues to bring me to the feet of many great masters, and Radhanath Swami is one I must introduce.
He came to India as a genuine 19-year-old seeker of truth. His book, “The Journey Home”, shares in detail his amazing journey from suburban Chicago to Europe, across the Middle East, and on to India during the 70s. In time, he realized that unless we really change ourselves, we cannot be a change in the world…that this change required a spiritual transformation.
Radhanath Swami is a Vaishnava sanyassin (a monk in a Krishna-bhakti lineage) and teacher of the devotional path of Bhakti yoga. He also is one of the kindest, gentlest, most compassionate people I’ve had the fortune to spend time with. Honest care and genuine love resonate in his voice, his words, his gestures, in his eyes. His life of service, teaching, and devotion is one of the finest of examples of Bhakti yoga in action.
Through Radhanath Swami’s inspiration and guidance and the social action programs of his Radha Gopinath Ashram in Mumbai, millions of lives are improved and filled with hope. BhaktiVedanta Hospital, is an innovative holistic hospital that works with the entire human condition: body, mind and spirit…to help patients heal and find true wellness.
Govardhan Eco Village is a working organic farm, a center for cow care, a teaching and rural development center, as well as a gurukul (orphanage and school). The cow care program is based on the symbiotic relationship between cow and man. The devotees treat these beautiful animals with great respect and care, and the healthy animals fertilize the soil, help to till in the fields, give their milk and curd, and provide a myriad of other products for human benefit. Their literature says astutely, “Real eco-friendly lifestyle begins when we harmonize our lives with the divine cosmic laws and learn to abstain from activities that are detrimental for development of a peaceful environment within.”
Another project, called “Annamrita” meaning “food as pure as nectar”, feeds 1.2 million vegetarian meals everyday to schoolchildren from 24 kitchen centers across 10 states in India. Simply providing one square meal a day can help to break the vicious cycle of poverty and illiteracy. Being the change.
This is Bhakti yoga, service to others and the divine as the basis of life and a means for inner transformation. Radhanath Swami said to me, “the Sanskrit word for yoga means to reconnect with our eternal essence. And, the purpose of every aspect of yoga is to create a transformation of our character, a transformation of our perception of life, and a transformation of our consciousness. From arrogance to humility, from greed to generosity, from vengeance to forgiveness, from hate to love, from agitation to peace”…laughing, he said, “and ultimately in this world from envy to compassion. For unless those transformations take place, unless we tap into our own spiritual essence, our true nature, there can be no real fulfillment in life.”
Illuminated in the warm afternoon sun, the man responsible for sharing the light of yoga with probably more human beings than any other, radiantly sat before me. Entering his 95th year, B.K.S. Iyengar welcomed me in for a conversation at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, his yoga school in Pune, India, named in his late wife’s honor.
Guruji, as his students affectionately call him, listened briefly to my explanation for being there, this photographic exploration of yoga, and then launched into an articulate, studious and inspired lesson on yoga. He answered none of my questions and all of them. Quoting freely from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Guruji pointed out relevant passages, which I read aloud as the room slowly filled with students that gathered around me. It was a privilege to hear this brilliant man speak of the subject closest to his heart.
He commented on the Sutras with authority as I looked into his expressive eyes, explaining nuances of meaning. The essence of his message was that yoga is a progressive subject. First we must work with the concrete…and discipline the body and mind, through regular asana practice with awareness. “Asanas are to interpenetrate, not as physical exercise. Have I touched my mind? Have I touched my intelligence? Have I touched my ego? Have I touched my self? This is Sadhana”, he told me. “So that is why I go deep, and that is why I enjoy it”, he said with an assuring laugh. Then, and only then, will we be fit for the abstract, subtle work of yoga.
As our conversation progressed, he continued, “You know what yoga has given me, I can tell you. At the age of 95, I’m still a fresh mind. It’s not a nagging mind. It’s not a nagging body. That’s enough for me. And, whether emancipation comes from that is immaterial…So I want everybody to have that fresh mind, that fresh way of thinking, freshness in them, moment to moment. And that is life. And to experience that fresh life, the methodology is only yoga.”
The Opening Reception of Mark Seliger’s “When They Came to Take My Father”, Voices of the Holocaust, The Human Condition and Doug Knutson’s Nobel Peace Portraits, all addressing the theme of humanity is this Saturday night, November 10th at the MPLS Photo Center. I’m happy to report that one of the images from my ongoing work on yoga was selected to be included in the “The Human Condition” exhibition. Please come join us!
After new edits, much deliberation and extensive design revisions, the work has culminated in a new website for you to enjoy. Please visit www.andyrichterphoto.com and let me know what you think…
Mexico is one of my favorite countries in the world to visit…I recently had the opportunity to shoot a cover down at the beautiful Ventanas al Paraiso in Los Cabos for Travel + Leisure Mexico.
Last autumn, I got a call from art director Jeremy Nelson of Minnesota Monthly to see if I would be interested in shooting a project for them called “Fall Drives” over the coming weeks. Essentially, the assignment was to travel throughout Minnesota along scenic routes and explore the splendor of fall…the winding roads, historic sites, small towns, restaurants and bars, and whatever caught my interest along the way. The journey that ensued provided freedom and time to get to know the state I call home, truly, for the first time in my life…from Lake Superior and the Iron Range in the north, to the Mississippi river valley, to Amish country in the south. This was my opportunity to connect with and see the land of 10,000 lakes anew. I slowed down to talk with people in main street cafes…took the time to drive to overlooks and walk in fields at harvest time…always aware of my place, the season, and the changing light. The story is out now, so please be sure to pick up a copy on the newsstands!
…my father passed away. This is a photograph from his final days…assessing the progress of the deck renovation that my brother Jesse and I were working on at the time…literally putting his house in order. I am grateful to be your son and miss you dearly, dad.