It is no secret that yogis love photography, any of us would if we could bend ourselves like a pretzel all while looking zen. And the Internet is flooded with those stunning images so people often see these pictures of a yogi standing on a rock in the middle of the ocean with waves crashing over the side as they hold that incredibly difficult position looking like the gorgeous, spiritual souls they are.
For the average practitioner this can be intimidating, which is not necessarily a new or unexpected thing.
Take a look at the world we live in, in the recent years we began to talk about the truth behind photographs, the mechanical subplots that hold together the story of a picture, as we began to learn the image you can see with your eyes and the image a camera can take can differ substantially. We’ve all had a moment when we look into a magazine and see that perfect, skinny and drop dead gorgeous model staring back at us. It’s unsettling. It is also, not real. Magazines edit these pictures and this is common knowledge. We’ve moved on and accepted the fact that the image we see is an amplified and improved and enhanced version of the truth. Though, what most people don’t realize is that yoga photography is not an exception to this rule but the careful abider of it, it is not above it and it is most definitely not the honest truth seen within a moment of captured time.
We photographers will spend countless hours during the shoot finding the best angle for a specific pose that makes the legs look longer, the face look younger, the muscles look defined and of course the smile to look radiating. So, what to the audience seeing the end work seems impossible? Is easily brought to life with some teamwork, some great ideas and some extra hands. And never forget the mood fitting music that plays at every shoot (though I can only speak for myself on that one). It’s the laugh of the model when a wave splashes her face, and the irritated gruff of a photographer when the sun goes behind some inconsiderate clouds that bring at image to life. Those are the tiny unseen threads of animation that are unseen in the end picture but are felt through it
That’s really the end goal here. The photograph itself takes a lot of time and preparation and work but in a real yoga practice would you be standing in possibly life threatening location, wearing makeup, with your perfectly curled hair falling into your face while having to keep the pose and smile for long periods of time? No! The tranquility that you feel during practice is unseen, unheard and unmoving. It simply exists. A moment trapped in the absence of time and being. A moment confined where the location, and the outfit and the person hold not a single meaning. To transform such an ethereal mystical moment into what our own eyes can see one must show only the best, that very peace is what we try to bring to life, to showcase it as it looks in the view of artistic vision and the view of the artist themselves. To bring such emotions to life, one’s purpose is not to showoff the abilities of a certain individual but to paint the portrait of one’s soul through poses and imagery so that hopefully, one day, one of you will gaze upon it and see the truth.
With every picture, a story is told, a moment unfolds, a person is shown. I have created some of the most moving and profound photographs while doing yoga photo series due to their lack of boundaries between the mind and the body. Every time it is an honor to be able to convey so much with simply a pose, a look and a location. To communicate pain, love, loss, grief, heartbreak and joy through a person, not just so that people see it and understand it but so that when they see it, they feel it too. It is one thing to make someone understand, it is another to make them feel. It is not a case of how well the pose is done, or how amazing yogi looks, it is a case of how well the photographer was able to capture the inner spirit of the yogi in his image. That is the truth behind yoga photography. It should be viewed as an art rather than a how-to manual.
Art is not meant to be realistic, art is meant to make you feel.