Jon Kolkin “Inner Harmony” Artist’s Talk

Artist’s Talk with Jon Kolkin, Wednesday, 7/17/2013 @ 4:00 p.m.
followed by an opening reception from 5 – 6

The Inner Harmony series, as explained by Jon Kolkin    

The concept for the Inner Harmony series came to Jon while working in a small, (by Chinese standards) frenetic city of 8 million people – well off the beaten path – called Wenzhou. When he scheduled his trip to Wenzhou, Jon was originally planning to photograph Buddhist monks for a series he is working on called Seeking Wisdom; a project he started after spending 6 weeks in the only Buddhist Kingdom in the world, Bhutan, situated high in the Himalayan Mountains.

Jon Kolkin "Boys in Prayer" Platinum palladium print

Jon Kolkin “Boys in Prayer” Palladium print

After a bit of online research, Jon discovered an intriguing comment in a blog about a secluded Buddhist monastery called the Taiping Temple, tucked away in the heart of the city.  A wild 20-minute taxi ride on day two of his trip took him from his hotel to the front gate of the monastery.  He walked through the entrance and suddenly found himself in the middle of a 3-acre cloistered community of over a 100 female Buddhist monks and nuns. Despite all the chaos that surrounded them, he felt these women had found a way to remain centered, stripping away all the superfluous, unnecessary static that is so prevalent in most societies. It seemed these remarkable women possessed an Inner Harmony that transcended time and place. Jon wanted to capture with his camera his interpretation of what he sensed existed inside the minds of these dedicated practitioners of Buddhism, as opposed to simply documenting it.


Jon Kolkin "Guided Prayer" Palladium print

Jon Kolkin “Guided Prayer” Palladium print

He knew from his experience in Bhutan that he would face huge challenges. In his words, “Buddhist monks, by nature, are very reserved and avoid seeking attention.  They rarely allow their picture to be taken, particularly if it includes their face.  So, here I was, a towering, male Caucasian with a full-sized camera in his hands, unable to speak their language hoping to put these reclusive monks and nuns at ease so that I could authentically capture their mood with my camera.” And then there was the permission piece – general restrictions on photographing in and around temples. Technical problems arose, as well, like the fact that these sanctuaries tend to be dimly lit, and Jon had to rely exclusively on nature light .

Jon’s respectful, unrushed, gentle nature came in handy here. He attended multiple meetings with the master and her representatives. He showed them samples of his work and gave careful explanation of intention. It was this thoughtful approach that eventually extended him the extraordinary privilege of photographing this magical setting for several days.

After he had a clear sense of what he wanted to accomplish with this body of work he was able to make a number of artistic decisions. He decided to do the series in black and white because he felt it would more effectively translate the mood of the environment. He also felt strongly that the images needed to be small, creating an intimate setting that draws the viewer in close, allowing them to briefly glimpse into the world of these Buddhist monks and nuns.  Finally, he decided to print these images using one of the oldest, most prized photographic techniques, Palladium printing, even though it is a very labor intensive, exacting and expensive process.  He specifically chose Palladium because one can achieve a remarkable level of depth, beauty and intimacy – something that is virtually impossible to replicate with more modern techniques.


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