I was approached by a dear friend of mine to photograph a monk at a temple on Mt. Misen upon Miyajima Island nearby Hatsukaichi, Japan. This monk holds a very special place in the heart of my friend and she wanted to give back to all his support in the form of a timeless portrait that would live on past his days.
So, what did I say to this invitation?
I have witnessed a Buddhist prayer in the past and would absolutely find it to be an honor to photograph the “source” of these immensely moving experiences.
So, off I went to Miyajima!
I carried my backpack with my camera, three lenses and speedlite and a bag with a lightstand, octobox and boomstick. When I jumped off the ferry and walked onto the island, I ran/jogged my way to the ropeway gondola to catch a lift to the summit of Mt. Misen. (Whew, I was sweating a bit.)
After meeting my friend and her family, we set out to make a surprise visit to Monk Yoyusan, who was unaware he was about to be professionally photographed!
For the most part, I photographed the encounter between my friend and Monk Yoyusan in a documentary way. There is a much more delicate and sensitive reason as to why I was photographing Yoyusan for my friend. And that story is not mine to tell.
When I was in his presence, I was able to see how joyful and carefree Monk Yoyusan is. His personality radiates comfort, humor and hospitality. I felt like I knew him, although, I had never met him before.
Of course, I had never met a monk either, so I didn’t have anyone to compare him with! *giggle*
I was able to witness a very unique version of “PPAP.”
I was humbled to see a dear friend expose her most vulnerable emotion.
I saw the passing of knowledge from one generation to another.
I felt his drumming vibrating in my chest.
The tinkling and chiming of the staff heightened my sense of ceremony.
His chanting calmed my thoughts and allowed me to focus on and capture what I felt, not what I wanted to create.
I felt great joy and laughed behind my camera.
There were messages all around.
And when it came time to create a portrait for him, well, it was a bit awkward! My light was big and chunky; got in the way, was heavy. He had never been photographed professionally in this manner and was humbled and somewhat troubled as to what he should do. But, when I asked him to kneel, place his hands together and bring himself into prayer, the room quietened.
Even now, when reading this and looking at this image, knowing of his future, knowing of the change that awaits him, that awaits all of us, I feel intensely emotional.
His acceptance. His beliefs.
In his presence, the world seemed to stop moving.
I wanted to stay there.
I looked around.
And I turned back.
Life is magnificent. People are magnificent. And through sadness, through hardship, there will always be wonderful moments of joy and true happiness.
This visit to Mt. Misen to create a portrait of Monk Yoyusan will forever be etched into my mind and heart. Thank you, Yoyusan. Thank you, my dear friend Kaori, for you have given me an opportunity to connect with an amazing man.