My work, both client based and personal, has always dealt with the deconstruction of common stereotypes placed on my subjects, which often varies. I focus on the human spirit, and who my subjects are on the inside, regardless of who they may appear to be on the outside. This theme and interest has followed me in both the work I am producing as well as my many interests outside of the studio. I have now carried this fascination and desire to show the inner beauty & strength of people, primarily women, into a new body of work focusing on yoga instructors and their practice and space.
I began my journey with yoga at the age of 10 years old. It has followed me my whole life. I have often heard many people say "Oh, I can't do yoga, I am in horrible shape!" or "My ass would not look good in a pair of yoga pants!" or "I can barely reach my fingers to my toes, I am too embarrassed to try yoga". My question is always the same, "When did yoga become so vain?". I am not sure that I have found that answer yet, however, yoga was never a vanity to me. It has always been spiritual, personal, and an emotional practice. I know that yoga, in the mainstream media and fitness community, is often represented in a very sterile way, with models who may or may not be yoga instructors, in the picture perfect studio space. It is often marketed as a way to get in shape, lose weight, or as a fad, usually leaving out everything that yoga truly is; spiritual and meditative. It is the perfect balance and connection of mind, body, and soul. When you google yoga, what do you find? Usually the same poses, no one is sweating, and it is usually one type of woman; slender and dark hair (just an observation). Oh and can I also point out, the next most popular search in regards to yoga is yoga pants, with photos of women's butts. The truth is, this representation of yoga is not a reality for the majority of people practicing. In some cases, it is the complete opposite. Yoga is not about being perfect. It is about being present and patient and passionate. It is about being forgiving to yourself, both in mind and body.
I have been thinking about this for a long time now, tucking it away in the back of my brain. It wasn't until I was contacted by one of the most beautiful souls I have had the opportunity of meeting, in Jacksonville, that this concept and these questions came back to the forefront. Jamey DeMyer, a Crossfit SilWar family member, and Bikram Yoga instructor, reached out to me not too long ago, wanting me to photograph her in her studio space while she did a one hour Bikram Yoga series of 26 poses, in her hot, hot, room. Her session was so emotional. I watched her cry, I watched her fail at poses, and then succeed a minute later; the reality of yoga. I even found myself crying at times because of how truly moved I was by this woman. At first, I thought she wanted these for promotional uses. I quickly learned that she actually wanted these for herself; to see what she looks like while she is in her state of mind and during a typical practice. I was absolutely thrilled. She warned me that her studio was far from perfect and that she wasn't necessarily ready for this, but she was, as she often says, "grabbing the bull by the horns, and looking fear in the face". I couldn't admire her more for doing this session. Jamey is the first yoga instructor that I have photographed since I began tackling these questions in regards to modern day yoga. Regular everyday people have reservations about yoga because they don't understand what it really is or what it means to practice yoga. They only know what is shown to them via the fitness world. I am not exactly sure where this project will go, but I know that I want to continue to photograph yoga instructors from all walks of life to help show the many facets of the yoga community. I want to know what yoga means to these people and what it means to teach the practice of yoga, because I sure as hell know that these people don't do it in vain. They, like Jamey, are 100% invested in helping people through the wonderful, spiritual, mindful practice of yoga.
Enjoy some of the images from Jamey's session.