Are We Photographing Facts or Feelings?

Being the Ananda community’s only photographer from 1976 to 1983 was a strange role for me to have. I was shy around people, and I was especially nervous when taking photos of Swami Kriyananda.

One afternoon, I came out of Master’s Market just as Swamiji’s car pulled up. He emerged, accompanied by a group of devotees who were driving him to the airport in Sacramento.

He wore a bright blue suit, a bright orange tie, and pants that were too short.

Did I really want to take a photo of him in that get-up?

You bet!

I asked him if I could take a photo.

Swamiji said, “Here – let me grab my sombrero!”

Someone handed him the hat, and there you have it.

I had black-and-white film in the camera at the time. Years later, I played with Photoshop to recreate the approximate effect. Asha helped me with the color of the sombrero. Enjoy! And, yes, go ahead and smile.

P.S. Swamiji said that Ananda’s colors are blue, white, and gold. They are the colors of the Nayaswami Order: blue for nayaswamis, yellow/gold for brahmacharis, and white for tyagis. Asha told me that Swamiji loved the pure blue color of the suit, which he had bought from a tailor in Kashmir.

Speaking of colors, I’m reminded of a time, in the late 1970s, when Swami was shooting with Agfa slide film because it made things look exactly like the human eye sees them – which I felt was very dull. I don’t remember how the subject came up, but I remember remarking to him that most people tended to prefer the warmer, more colorful palette of Kodachrome – whereupon he immediately switched and never went back.

It brought up an interesting point for me as a photographer – the idea that in creating a photograph we aren’t just trying to make  a scientifically accurate reproduction of the scene, but that we’re also trying to convey a feeling.

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