28 September 2017

Emancipating Hindu Spirituality

In Hinduism, a sādhu is a religious ascetic or holy person. The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving spiritual liberation aka mokṣa, the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of BrahmanSādhus often wear saffron-coloured clothing, symbolising their renunciation aka sanyāsa (renunciation of worldly possessions).

A female mendicant in Hinduism is often called a sādhvī, or sometimes (especially in Jainism) an aryika. The Sanskrit term sādhvī ("good or virtuous woman") refers to female renouncers who have chosen to live lives apart from or on the edges of society to focus on their own spiritual practices. It is also thought that the austere practices of the sādhvī help to burn off their karma and that of the community at large.
Female sādhus aka sādhvīs exist in many sects and their lifestyles vary among the Hindu sects. In many cases, the women that take to the life of renunciation are widows, and these types of sādhvīs often live secluded lives in ascetic compounds. Others start following their spiritual path as teens or twens and follow the sadhana through organized groups. Women are said to make up c. 5 - 10 percent of those on the sādhu/sādhvī path. Sādhvīs, like their male counterparts, devote their lives to deep meditation, a particular god, yoga and spiritual discussion and other related practices. Sādhvīs may be yoginis (and often are), but yoginis are not necessarily sādhvīs.

Sādhvīs are sometimes regarded by some as manifestations or forms of a goddess, or devi, and are honoured as such. There have been a number of charismatic sādhvīs that have risen to fame as religious teachers in contemporary India (e.g. Anandamayi Ma, Sarada Devi, Mata Amritanandamayi). A few Hindu sects do not permit sādhvīs for fear the celibate sādhus would be corrupted. There are also cases of physical exploitation and sexual abuse of sādhvīs (e.g. India Today of Aug 26, 2017).

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"The demand for equal rights in every vocation of life is just and fair;
but, after all, the most vital right is the right to love and be loved."
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Street portraits of Indian sādhus in Matt Hahnewald's

Street portraits of sādhus from Nepal in Matt Hahnewald's

Street portraits of sādhus from Varanasi in Matt Hahnewald's

20 August 2017

Nostalgifying Portraits with Sepia

Toning is a method of changing the colour of black-and-white photographs. In analog photography, it is a chemical process carried out on silver-based photographic prints. Most toners work by replacing the metallic silver in the emulsion with a silver compound, such as silver sulfide in the case of classic sepia toning, which gives a black-and-white photographic print a brownish, "warmer" tone and enhances its archival qualities. Beginning in the 1880s, sepia tone was originally produced by adding a pigment made from the Sepia cuttlefish to the positive print of a photograph taken with any number of negative processes. Nowadays, toning can be simulated digitally, either in-camera or in post-processing. The in-camera effect often uses just a simple tint. More sophisticated software like Adobe's Photoshop tends to implement sepia tones using its duotone feature.

Sepia photography has been popular among portrait photographers for years. In terms of design, a sepia tone is a classic/vintage photo effect and can give an olden, aged or worn look to most portrait photographs. Sepia triggers a nostalgic feeling and makes a modern portrait look like an instant classic...

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More blog entries about hands-on editing techniques for street portrait photographs:

04 August 2017

Sporting a Pious Beard

Facial hair is hair grown on the chin, cheeks, and upper lip region, and it’s not something to trifle with. However, beards and moustaches are a vestigial trait from a time when humans had hair on their face and entire body. Interestingly enough, some faiths require the removal of facial hair whilst others do not. Many religions do encourage or require their men to keep beards. Why do God and his (!) servants like facial hair so much? Maybe because it’s supposed to represent manliness, virility and power since it’s an important secondary sex characteristic of the human male...

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(i) Sikhism has considered a full beard to be absolutely essential for all males able to grow one, and mandate it as part of their official dogma. Sikhs believe that hair is a natural form as created by God. As a result, cutting hair is forbidden in Sikhism for those who have taken the amrit initiation ceremony. Hair is part of god’s creation to Sikhs, and is therefore sacred. Sikhs believe honouring God includes never shearing any hair on their body. Doing so would mar the perfection of God’s creation, they believe.

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(ii) In Islam, the Quran does not prescribe beards for Muslims, but the hadith (the collected sayings of the Prophet Muhammad pbuh) describes Muhammad pbuh as ordering his followers to wear beards: “Differ from the polytheists: let your beard (grow), and trim your moustache,” the hadith reads. Trimming the moustache is considered to be a sunnah and mustahabb, that is, a way of life that is recommended, especially among Sunni Muslims.

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(iii) In Hinduism, many sadhus have long beards, as they are not permitted to own anything, which would include a razor. The scruffy, unkempt beard is also a sign of their nomadic and ascetic lifestyle.

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(iv) The male members of the Rabari people, a pastoralist community and scheduled tribe in the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, grow friendly mutton chops and mighty (handlebar) moustaches. They take great pride in their facial hair; in fact it is the fountain hood of their very maleness and a mark of their virility. The Rabari myth of origin is that Shiva put them on earth to tend to the camels owned by Parvati. Their religion is often a mix of Hinduism and Animism.

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(v) In (Theravada) Buddhism, monks follow the vinaya rules about hair and always completely shave their head and beard, showing their commitment to the holy/monastic life. The monastic ordination ceremonies of all schools of Buddhism include head shaving; the beard is perceived as an unnecessary feature and is also removed.

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20 July 2017

Fantasising about Masked Beauties

A new fashion trend has emerged all over India (and Nepal). The niqab or religious veil, often demonised in the West, is proving to be a boon for young non-Muslim woman on the Indian subcontinent. They like to cover their heads, save for the eyes, with cloth wraps which look from a distance very similar to Islamic face veils. Only, this secular version of the traditional niqab is often much more colourful and its striking patterns seem to be more brash and trendy.

However, the underlying psychological principle obviously is still the same, religious or secular: Less is More. An amorous pass and the first steps of communication are much easier and straight to the point since the eyes are known as the autobahn to the female soul (...unless they are hidden behind sunglasses). All subconscious secondary facial expressions (e.g. frowning, scrunching up one’s nose, pulling down the corners of one’s mouth) which can be a deterrent can easily be ignored, at least for the time being. Eyes are not only the means to see this world, but they are also the way through which we can see the heart. Of course, humans wouldn’t be humans (and women not women), without the application of oh-so-reasonable psychological rationalisations such as using the trendy designer scarves for the sole purpose of protection from pollution, wind and sun... It sounds so nice, wise and prudent, doesn’t it?

By the way, the desired focus on those talkative Indian and Nepalese eyes seems to be top-priority to the head-covering girls and young women even at the risk of punishment: Indian police banned head coverings ten years ago as a way to combat terrorism. Fortunately, the most beautiful thing about eyes is that they never lie...

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"The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter,
often an unconscious but still a faithful interpreter,
in the eye."

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; seven-eighths view; red; outdoor; sunshine; harsh noon sun; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian girl; Indian woman; young woman; Junagadh; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; three-quarter view; purple; outdoor; sunshine; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian woman; young woman; Junagadh; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic; beautiful eyes

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"I like you; your eyes are full of language."
Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; full-face view; bokeh; red; outdoor; sunshine; evening sun; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian girl; Indian woman; young woman; Junagadh; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; faceshot; tight crop; full-face view; black; outdoor; sunshine; evening sun; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian woman; young woman; Junagadh; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; faceshot; tight crop; full-face view; outdoor; sunshine; evening sun; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian girl; Indian woman; young woman; Junagadh; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic; bindi

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; faceshot; tight crop; full-face view; blue; outdoor; sunshine; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian girl; Indian woman; young woman; Ahmedabad; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; full-face view; green; outdoor; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headwrap; headscarf; dupatta; dust veil; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; non-religious headscarf; Indian girl; Indian woman; young woman; Bhuj; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Apart from the more fashion-based focus on beautiful eyes there are also religion-based versions (preferably in black) and health-based versions (preferably in white) of the above-mentioned rationalisation which certainly work just as well. Anyway, eyes do matter as one can see below...

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; frame; psychological; amazing; spectacular; favourite; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; seven-eighths view; black; outdoor; colour; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; forehead; human eyes; eyelashes; eye contact; headscarf; niqab; headcovering; covered head; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; fun; travel portrait; Muslimah; Indian woman; young woman; Ahmedabad; Gujarat; India; one person; female; posing; authentic

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; amazing; spectacular; lively; outstanding; fantastic; favourite; superior; interesting; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; portrait; closeup; headshot; three-quarter view; pink; outdoor; colour; colourful; character; personality; real people; human head; forehead; bindi; human face; human eyes; talkative eyes; smiling eyes; eye contact; face mask; headscarf; disposable surgical mask; enigmatic; sexy eyes; hygiene; consent; empathy; rapport; encounter; emotion; ethnic portrait; travel portrait; Hinduism; Kathmandu; Nepal; mature woman; Nepali woman; one person; female; beauty; adult; posing; authentic; smiling; smizing; fabulous; attractive; sensual; soulful; captivating; charming

One final thought. Perhaps the female face veil/mask acts just as psychological counterbalance to the male full beard. Who's to say...

Matt Hahnewald Photography; Facing the World; photography; photo; image; psychological; amazing; spectacular; dynamic; lively; Nikon D3100; Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.8G; prime lens; 50mm lens; 4 : 3 aspect ratio; horizontal format; street; portraiture; double portrait; half-length portrait; closeup; full-face view; yellow, red; outdoor; colour; colourful; world cultures; cultural; character; personality; real people; human head; forehead; human face; makeup; painted face; face painting; third eye; sacred ash; vibhuti; urdhva pundra; human eyes; facial expression; lived-in face; wrinkles; eye contact; full beard; long hair; sadhu; headwrap; prayer shawl; body language; gesture; blessing; raised right hand; consent; empathy; rapport; respect; encounter; relationship; travel portrait; Hinduism; Vaishnavism; Durbar Square; Kathmandu; Nepal; two people; male; old man; posing; awesome; beggar; red; yellow

Portrait photographs about talkative female eyes in Matt Hahnewald's