Essay by Patrik Andersson, a NY-based photographer and director, as well as a practicing Buddhist, originally from Sweden.
Sometime in the mid nineties I started withdrawing from the fashion world. I had reached a success beyond what I anticipated as a teenager and felt empty that it hadn’t delivered the satisfaction that I expected. I started reading spiritual books and found in Zen Buddhism that “desires are endless” and an elusive understanding came that somehow the issue was not in trying to achieve something in the world, but laid in understanding the workings of ones own mind.
Eventually I put my cameras and negative archive in storage and got rid of all the other stuff and went on a trip around the world studying meditation at different places. I didn’t carry a camera during that year so there are no pictures that I can show from that period. But it was an amazing year of giving myself over to the study of the mind. The longest retreat was two months of intensive meditation and silence at Panditarama in Myanmar (Burma). When I came back to “regular life” I would go to weeklong retreats at Dai Bosatsu Zendo upstate New York. This is still the most beautiful place I have ever meditated at.
It is a very strict style Rinzai Zen, brought to America by Eido Roshi pictured here. It is a Japanese style Zen monastery where everybody wears robes and the meditation hall has shiny mahogany floors. You can hear a pin drop in the morning meditation hour before the birds wake up.
The pic is from the dokusan room where you have your interaction with the teacher, photographed with the twenty by twenty four inch gigantic camera I mentioned earlier. In the moody darkness Eido had to sit absolutely unmoving for a couple of minutes, not a big deal for a Japanese zen master.
Bringing the huge camera to a zen retreat and taking one picture a day for two months was my attempt at starting to merge my two interests of creativity of photography and film communication with the research into spirituality and meditation. It was intended to deepen my experience by bringing the practice into my work and my work into the practice.