On August 29, 2015, photographer Andy Romanoff came to Ukiah make photographs of the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas for his 15,000 Buddhas project. While there, he learned that Abhayagiri Monastery was only 35 minutes north and decided to visit. He spent a few hours here photographing Buddha images, almsbowls, and monk’s laundry. He kindly allowed us to post his photographs in our gallery (All images copyright Andy Romanoff).
Writing about his time at Abhayagiri in his blog, Andy describes:
“Sometimes the lights all shining on me…other times I can barely see…” a great Grateful Dead lyric, thank you Robert Hunter…and one I think about all the time. A few weeks ago I made pictures that felt good at the moment of their making and this week as I selected and finished them the feeling was still there. Seemed like the light was all shining on me.
One of the ways I know I’m in my zone is when I keep finding different ways to see the same thing and that was happening at the Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA. I only spent a few hours there but every minute felt good - I kept seeing more….
That’s what I love about shooting icons. They don’t change - or at least not very fast. The light changes of course but what mainly changes is me. What I bring to it, what is revealed when I’m patient, what is really there but I don’t always see. The eyes are always looking but perception is a sometime thing…and that’s another song.
Writing about the 15,000 Buddhas project:
I find myself exploring at the place that art and religion come together, and that often means photographing icons.
All icons are focusing devices. They help us turn away from the everyday and towards our deeper self. When I gaze at an icon it is not necessarily to see its specific religious qualities, but rather to glimpse the intentions of its maker and its universal quality, its desire to take you out of yourself, to create wonder.
I think it means something more to see all these faces together in the same space, virtual or on the wall. While each image seen alone represents the attributes of a single icon, seen together they are recontextualized and perhaps the universal sacred impulse they embody becomes more visible. I believe it means something more to see all these faces together than separately.
People ask why I’ve put so much work into this project. Here’s a story I think explains. I was in Berlin, making pictures in a beautiful old church which is now a museum. It was an autumn afternoon and the light was slanting in through the high windows. Because it’s a museum the statues of the angels had been moved from their usual places high up in the air, down closer to eye level. I was wandering among the angels, looking at their faces when suddenly the great organ in the loft started making music. The organist had come to rehearse for a concert the next day. The music and the beauty of the surroundings and the light all combined to create rich and powerful feelings that opened my heart. For the next half hour I was “in…….church”, making pictures while transfixed with feeling. The short answer to “why” I make these pictures is because I find it rewarding to do so.
The 15,000 Buddhas Project continues, and Andy regularly posts his favorites in the Best of the 15,000 Buddhas Project gallery. All photographs from the 15,000 Buddhas Project and more can be seen in the Fine Art Photographs section. Prints of these photographs can be ordered from the galleries; the proceeds help Andy share the project and keep it going. Andy hopes to return to Abhayagiri in 2016 to make more photographs.