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A Quest for Contemplation through Photography and Architecture

Find serenity at ‘Contemplation’, which brings together the photographs of Matthieu Ricard and the architecture of Simón Vélez and Stefana Simic in Arles

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Photography by Matthieu Ricard

“A storm rages at the surface, but beneath it all, calm endures.”

This piece of wisdom is from Buddhist monk and thinker Matthieu Ricard. It is handwritten in black ink below a large-scale photograph that sits among 40 other images with similar words and thoughts–inspiring introspection and meditation. These photos, taken between 1983 and 2017, bear witness to a lifetime devoted entirely to the quest for spiritual questions.

These photos are on display Contemplation, a showcase of the beautiful and monumental photographs of Matthieu Ricard. The exhibition is part of Les Rencontres d’Arles: Accueil, the summer photography festival that takes place in Arles, France, yearly.

In addition to the photographs, there is the structure that houses them, design specifically by Simón Vélez and Stefana Simic for the exhibition. The 1,000m² pavilion is made from Guada bamboo, the most abundant renewable forest resource in Columbia. It looks, contentedly, over the Rhône, sitting on its banks, facing towards the town of Arles. Like Ricard’s photographs–which capture light in a magical way–the pavilion filters the sunlight through the slits between the bamboo, creating an atmosphere of serenity. Of contemplation.  

The photographs depict layers of mountains, gently hanging flags, stretching skies, active robed figures and wide open spaces. They are printed on Japanese Awagami paper, which is a part of the country’s heritage and whose production dates back around 1,400 years. In explaining the motivation behind these images Ricard says: “Any medium of expression has its limits, but when we use it wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, we ultimately find the way to share what is most important to us. In my case, what matters most is to restore hope concerning our human nature, to prompt us to take care of our exceedingly fragile environment, and to encourage us to transform ourselves so that we can better transform the world.”

A difficult task in the 21st century which is flooded with what Ricard refers to as the “wicked-world syndrome” in which the proliferation of images of suffering, persecution, abuse and ill-treatment makes people believe the world is fundamentally evil. His photos offer a counter to this as he believes that “there is, at the heart of all of us, an extraordinary potential for goodness, wisdom, and enlightenment.”

In the desire to spread this optimistic message, the exhibition has been designed to travel and encounter new places and people. For now, Contemplation will be on display in Arles until September 23.

Matthieu Ricard
Horses under the clouds, at 15,800 feet altitude in Bayang, on the way to Mount Kailash, Western Tibet, 1998. ©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
Hills at dawn,Namo Buddha, Nepal, 2017. ©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
Monks of Shechen Monastery welcoming the abbot Rabjam Rinpoche, Nepal, 1995.
Matthieu Ricard
Aerial view arriving in Reykjavík, Iceland, 2014. ©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
Aerial view of the Amne Machin range, the highest peak of which culminates at 20,610 feet, Golok, Eastern Tibet, 2014.©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
Salinas Grandes, Jujuy district, Argentina, 2015. ©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
A pyramid of Tibetan prayer-flags, Eastern Tibet, 2007. ©Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard
Dancers during the yearly dance Tsechu festival at Shechen Monastery, Nepal, 2015. ©Matthieu Ricard
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