Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois, just opened a group exhibition featuring the recent donations and acquisitions to their permanent collection. One of my photographs from Oaxaca, Mexico, 2008, acquired last fall by curator Teresa Parker, is included in the show. Please take a look if you are in the area!
The Caravan, India’s “Journal of Politics and Culture” features an extended photo essay of my work with the Oro Win Tribe, created in the Brazilian Amazon in 2010. The 12-page spread reminds me of the photo magazines of yesterday…a true pleasure to see so much real estate dedicated to photography! To read the full story in The Caravan, click here.
I recently had an opportunity to write a short article for Namarupa magazine to go alongside a series of my photographs. “Beauty, Knowledge, Silence” is about my recent encounter with influential yogi B.K.S. Iyengar in Pune, India. To see the article in detail, please visit my site and be sure to learn more about Namarupa and their wonderful work on India.
As a part of my ongoing exploration of yoga, I have been shooting extensively in India this year. From the traditions of yoga, I now turn a lens on modern life and yoga today here at home.
Times Square, long a symbol of capitalism, indulgence and vice, took on a very distinct tone for this year’s Summer Solstice. On the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, over 8,000 yogis came together to practice asana at this frenetic crossroads of modern life. The five classes, beginning at 7:30 in the morning and ending at 9 at night, stretched along large swaths of concrete all the way from 44th Street to 47th Street along Broadway. What began with just 3 yogis and an intention is now in it’s 11th year and growing. The day began with a wonderful meditation lead by 94-year-old yogi, Tao Porchon-Lynch and flowed on from there…
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.”
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…