Poses of Peace – Michael O’Neill’s meditation on the essence of yoga
It’s taken yoga several thousand years to journey from a handful of monasteries dotting the Himalayas to the myriad studios of London, Lower Manhattan, and beyond. Whether bathing with holy men in the Ganges or joining the chorus of a thousand voices chanting “om,” photographer Michael O’Neill decided to devote himself to experiencing and recording the world of yoga at this critical juncture in its history. The result is a powerful photographic tribute to the age-old discipline turned global phenomenon, with over 250 million practitioners united in physical, spiritual, and mindful practice worldwide.
Famous for his photographs of the famous, O’Neill first set out to make portraits of the most influential yogis of our time—B. K. S. Iyengar, T. K. V. Desikachar, and Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, among others—as well as those known for integrating yoga into their high-profile lives, such as Donna Karan, Sting, and Trudie Styler. But as his yoga and meditation practice deepened, so did his drive to look past the personalities and the poses to document the roots of yoga. Over ten years O’Neill trekked beyond the traditional epicenters to meditate with monks in the Tibetan Plateau, live with sadhus in their tents at the Kumbh Mela, and marvel at the boys who practice the little known discipline of Mallakhamba at the wrestling grounds in Kochi.
This extraordinary body of work tells the story of yoga as it’s never been told before, with nearly 200 photographs. Two of O’Neill’s most important subjects, meditation master His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and yogi Eddie Stern, join the conversation with their essays on the role of yoga in contemporary culture, the history of the practice from the time of Patanjali, and the healing power of “the architecture of peace,” a series of postures that bring the practitioner closer to touching the infinite.
The photographer: In his five-decade career, Michael O’Neill has photographed the cultural icons of his time, from Andy Warhol to the Dalai Lama, for publications including the New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair. He has had solo shows of his work at Visa pour l’image (Perpignan, France); at II Mes Internacional da Fotografia (São Paulo, Brazil); and Houk Friedman (New York). His photographs reside in the collections of the Walker Art Center, among other museums. He is the subject of the 2017 documentary On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace.