Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

Living Buddhism – Graham Harrison

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

I discovered photography – and specifically photojournalism – in the final year of my politics degree. The catalyst for that process was a wonderful magazine called Photography that showcased the very best work, especially from that genre, with writers from the industry interviewing and commenting on significant and interesting work and, unlike most photography magazines, almost ignoring gadgetry and equipment.

One issue stood out for me and solidified my resolve to pursue photography as a career (despite having no portfolio nor ever having taken a photograph). It featured the work of Graham Harrison, already an established photographer who had been commissioned by the British Museum to take photographs in the Far East for their Buddhism: Art and Faith exhibition in 1985. This work is on show again at the University of Edinburgh from September the 12th and I hope will inspire a reprint of the book of the same title.

Some time ago I reviewed the book (as was) and here is what I said.

“It is honest and classic reportage and I looked at the images often. Harrison’s eye is delicate and respectful and one senses a desire to engage with the people in these images and their faith. The access is extraordinary: it is incredibly rare for example to be able photograph inside Eiheji, the headquarters of Soto Zen deep in the mountains of central Japan. Harrison’s work here captures the haste of a young novice scrubbing the wooden floors of the monastery in the ‘raw cold and semi-darkness of a late winter morning’ and the formal zazen of the rows of monks. His portrait of the Abbot of the monastery is as quiet and deceptively simple as is his landscape of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. His pictures of China in the chapter ‘Decline and Destruction’ are touchingly elegant showing what remained of a great culture. I think it’s true to say that Harrison’s photographs come close to capturing the quiet power of a way of life that is very difficult to describe in words.”

 

Photography Magazine March 1990

 

Vesak

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Happy Vesak (Vesakha) … not exactly the same date across all of the world but never mind…

 

Japan - Hikone - The shaved head of a Zen monk of the Soto School meditates at the Seiryu-ji Temple. In Zen Buddhism, zazen (literally "seated meditation") is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment (satori).

Vietnam - Hue - A young monk writes in the early morning dew on a pillar at the monastery at the Thienmu Pagoda

India - Sarnath - A Buddhist monk blows a trimpet during a service at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

The Karmapa Lama

Monday, June 28th, 2010

The French news magazine L’Express have just published an assignment I made for them in February on Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, the seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama in Sarnath, northern India. The Karmapa is head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and predates the Dalai Lama’s lineage. This particular incarnation is disputed however and another candidate, Trinley Thaye Dorje has also been proclaimed and enthroned in another part of India. There’s a reasonable discussion on the succession issues here.

In any case, the assignment gave me a three-fold opportunity.

Firstly, I had the pleasure of meeting the Karmapa, a shy and I thought rather melancholy figure – a bird in a gilded cage if ever there was one – whose keen interest in photography was restricted to photographing the outside world from his window. The child of nomads, he ‘escaped’ from his Chinese hosts first to Nepal and then to India from where he was supposed to conduct a european tour this summer only to be thwarted by the refusal of the Indian authorities to grant him an exit visa. Which has of course nothing to do with Chinese pressure.

Secondly, I had the chance to go back to one of my favourite cities, Varanasi – one of its many names – I think the most intriguing of all north Indian cities.

Thirdly, I had the pleasure to work with Marc Epstein, the charming Foreign Editor of L’Express with whom I managed to put the world to rights over long walks along the ghats of a city we both hadn’t visited for a couple of years. I managed to explain the relative intricacies of cricket to a Frenchman who was curious of all the sporting activity along the river and made him an honoury Tottenham Hotspur fan for his trouble. For this of course, I apologised in advance: an inevitable entrĂ©e to a world of pain and disappointment…

Some pictures…

India - Sarnath - Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - The hands of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Buddhist prayer beads sit on top of a page of sutras at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Disciples listen to a lecture by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Disciples listen to a lecture by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Detail of the feet of a disciple listening to a lecture by Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Buddhist monks reading a newspaper at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Buddhist monks reading and chanting sutras at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - A young monk rushes back to his place during a sutra chanting session at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

UK - Sarnath - Two Buddhist monks study a text at the Vajra Vidya Institute for Buddhist studies

India - Sarnath - Ogyen Trinley Dorje, His Holiness, The seventeenth reincarnation of The Karmapa Lama, Stuart Freedman (l) and Marc Epstein (r)