Before and After (2006)
in collaboration with Jessica Sucher
The portraits in Before and After were made at a Buddhist Meditation retreat center in Dharamsala, India. We worked with a group of participants in the annual, 3 month Vajrasattva meditation retreat. The Vajrasattva is a Tantric meditation practice in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, which involves visualization, mantra recitation, and purging of various mental negativities in order to prepare the mind for more advanced practice. The retreat is an intense experience that involves 5 AM wake up, 10 hours of meditation, fasting and daily periods of silence. Each participant agreed to be photographed the day before the beginning, and the day after the completion of this intensive and life transforming experience. We wanted to see if the hoped for transformation had a physical aspect that could be visible in the face of each participant. Is photographic representation sensitive enough to render such changes visible?