Sri Chinmoy — Inspiration behind My Photography
A Photographer’s Personal Perspective - by Prashputita A. Greco
Source of my inspiration, and provider of encouragement to continue and transcend my previous best efforts, my meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, suddenly left this earth-plane to enjoy a well-deserved rest after a lifetime of ceaseless self-giving in the pursuit of serving the world and helping create a better life for all. An extremely difficult photographic subject — with enormous variation of expressions in a matter of an instant, and dynamic speed in all of his movements and actions, as well as huge diversity of activities under photographically challenging conditions — Sri Chinmoy gave me the challenge and the impetus to continue studying photography and bettering my previous results. Sri Chinmoy also provided specific directions to me in improving my work, whether it was the intense photojournalistic assignments, or the meditative journeys into landscapes and nature.
From the first time I met Sri Chinmoy, he encouraged my photographic efforts. Sri Chinmoy used to affectionately refer to me as: “The boy who takes pictures.”.
Sri Chinmoy was resident in the Sri Aurobindo ashram (Pondicherry, South India) when Henri Cartier-Bresson went there on assignment with the Magnum Photos Agency. Sri Chinmoy once recounted that: “He [Henri Cartier-Bresson] was so discreet: you never knew when he was taking a picture.” (He would keep his camera hidden behind a white handkerchief until the last possible moment). I count myself as very fortunate and blessed to have been a meditation student of Sri Chinmoy the past 21 years of my 47 years on earth. Responsibility and pressure came with the role of being one of the official photographers during Sri Chinmoy’s non-stop stream of activities, in New York and many other countries of the world. Yet, this was a tremendous privilege for me, and a boon, because it forced me to further advance myself, and my photographic capacities, skills and awareness.
Sri Chinmoy read all my published articles in Australian Photography magazine. A few years ago, in reference to my published views on digital cameras, with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin, he suddenly turned to me in a quiet moment during an intensely hectic day, and said: “You take the nicest pictures with the oldest cameras: no digital!”.
His lifetime of achievements is incomprehensible to the mind. I shall remain eternally grateful for the blessingful opportunities which were given me in helping to document some of this remarkable human being’s activities and accomplishments. It was necessary to be on my best behaviour, particularly at the large functions, especially when VIPs, and dignitaries or even Royalty were in attendance! Even more, in my becoming a better person, I also became a better photographer.
While I have the gift of life, I intend to make the most of it, in every possible way. This includes doing all that I can in pursuing this hobby (avocation?) of photography, which — for me — serves not only as a metaphor for life, but also as a way of enriching and improving life, and furthering myself. In praise of the digital revolution, this has made photography easier and more accessible for many people, with arguably greater options to express themselves and their creativity. Although the “perfect picture” might never be obtained, it is the striving towards that goal, and bettering your previous best, which gives joy and fulfilment.
Experiences in life have taught me not to take anything or anyone for granted, not to be surprised by anything which happens, and also to follow my inner urges. Why it is necessary to do certain things when they don’t seem logical at the time may only become apparent many years later. Thankfully, I had given my utmost effort in discharging my duties as a photographer during the functions and celebrations for Sri Chinmoy’s birthday in August of 2007, which have turned out to be his last. I felt happy with my endeavours, and Sri Chinmoy kept saying nice things about my work, both to myself, and the distinguished guests. I also remembered to take RAW images as well as the fast-production JPEGs. There had been a vague feeling, sometimes surfacing into my awareness, that I wouldn’t have the opportunity in future to be taking any more of these photos.
Over 1600 books of Sri Chinmoy’s poems, essays, talks, lectures, stories and plays have been published. In the last published book of poems, made available for sale just the night before he left the mortal coil the next morning, the final poem reads: “My physical death is not the end of my life — I am an eternal journey.”. To learn more, see www.SriChinmoy.org. Some of my pictures of Sri Chinmoy are at http://www.gallery.srichinmoycentre.org/members/prashphutita
One of my favourite images of Sri Chinmoy (below) was taken August 1996 on a crowded ferry headed for the Statue of Liberty. I particularly like the confluence of sky, land, and water, as well as the meditative mood, which is one of the many aspects of Sri Chinmoy which I most wish to remember him for.