Not-Self Portraits (2000/2012)

The images in Not-Self Portraits attempt to represent - through the genre of the photographic portrait - the invisible actions of mental, spiritual and physical transformation.

Not-Self Portraits are portraits made while I was doing a Buddhist meditation practice. I sit, remaining as still as I possibly can, for one hour. During these hour-long exposures the camera records the accumulation of my stillness, and my movements. A single candle - often utilized in meditation practice as an object of concentration - is used as my only lighting equipment. Physical stillness is considered very important in photography. Its absence causes a motion blur, a faulty, imperfect exposure. This was a primary obstacle photography had to overcome in its early days in order to become the dominant form of representation. Daguerre, one of photography’s inventors, bemoaned the fact that photography, because of its slow speed, would never be able to make portraits a practical reality. Physical stillness is also considered fundamental to meditation as it leads to mental stillness, which in turn, leads to realization. Meditation is a practice of stilling the body and mind in order to understand their nature and the problematic notion of “self”. The Buddhist notion of Not-Self (Anatta), addresses the fact that self doesn’t exist in the way we generally experience it, its realization is said to lead to enlightenment. Meditation masters are reputed to be able to remain perfectly still for hours, even, days at a time, and this skill is one of the contributing factors to their myth as realized beings. If stillness is an indication of realization, these portraits are a way of measuring inner realization, a kind of enlightenment barometer.