Friday, August 6, 2010

In Search Of The Buddha

Rio Helmi is an Indonesian photographer from Ubud, Bali. All his photos reflect two major passions of his life , photography and Buddhism. An exhibition of his photos titled "In Search Of The Buddha" is currently being held in Ubud and will run until this September.

( A monk walks into the sunset in a monastery in Chiang Mai )

“There is no one story behind this exhibition, there is no one story behind each one of these images. A multiplicity of causes and conditions have come together for the collection. They are ongoing. Each one of these images has arisen under its own particular circumstance with its own set of causes. People may think this sentence sounds like its from a Buddhist text, not a photographic book" he said.

( Long road: A young boy on a trip to a Nadam festival, a semi-religious cultural fair in Mongolia, stands by a cairn commonly found in Central Asia where pilgrims leave votives in the form of stones at the top of passes )

The seeds of photography as well as Buddhism were planted early on in his childhood. Born in Europe in 1954 to an Indonesian diplomat father and a Turkish mother, Rio’s childhood and youth were spent living in the various countries where his father was posted as well as visiting many countries in Europe and Asia . At the age of 12 he was introduced to the darkroom by a family friend — the very first pictures he developed were of newly arrived Tibetan refugees in Switzerland.

( Deep eyes: A young Tibetan novice under a huge tent awaits the start of the Dalai Lama’s annual teachings in Bodghaya )

“My father’s fascination for photography and home movies pervaded our family life. There was also a dream-like childhood visit to magical Borobudur in the early 60s that sticks in my mind. As does my first encounter with a darkroom where the first pictures I developed were of Tibetan refugees. ‘Who are these people?’ I thought — I was completely fascinated. There was also an unforeseen meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1982,” he said.

( Near finish: A Tibetan woman in Dharamsala takes time out from turning a giant prayer wheel to offer some heartfelt prayers )

There are more than 25 images displayed in the exhibit and each speaks of different conditions, different expectations faced by Buddhist followers, monks and laymen alike, throughout Asia, from Dharamsala in India to Glodok in Jakarta. Yet, they speak about Rio’s personal journey, about specific things and moments that moved his heart and deepened his understanding on the teachings of Siddartha Gautama.

Rio has reached the point where techniques and aesthetics moved to the backseat and the ability to surrender to the moment took the steering wheel. He repeatedly said that he didn’t even care about that these elements anymore, underlining both his freedom from his “old” self as well as his concern for the prevailing trend among contemporary photographers to bicker more about the length of the lenses and about what the best techniques are.

Despite that statement, his images display all the characteristics of well-executed techniques and a deep understanding of aesthetics.

( Photos taken on the opening day of the exhibition. Rio is the bald guy )