Stalked: Richard Pilnick, Yoga Photographer

27 December 2016

The human body is a very beautiful thing and when captured in the right environment and form can be even more beautiful. One of the reasons I started to swing the direction of this blog to include more wellbeing and yoga was so that I had an excuse to photograph some talented people manipulate their their bodies into incredible shapes. 

This is what one of my newly favourite photographers also has dedicated his work to, Richard Pilnick is a very talented yoga and portrait photographer capturing the body in it's most beautiful forms. I caught up with him over email while he was travelling around India, to find out why he started to concentrate his subject on yoga and what he has planned for his journey..

Why did you decide to concentrate your work on the practice of yoga?


It was actually more the other way around, I was worked for many years in the fashion industry and decided to to take some time out in India to get some perspective on my work, figuring out with a clear mind, what it is that I actually take picture of. This led to the realisation of being a portrait photographer and that 2 months ended up being just under 4 year living and working in Asia. Every time I was in India I would practice with my teacher, Ganesh, in Gokarna, one trip, in 2011, I met an India Yogi called Shiva Shankar, inspired by the human body and mind, and his endearing demeanour, I asked if I could take some pictures - he gleefully obliged. A few days later we were building a studio on the roof of the shala and set about choosing Asana loading film and shooting, it was an incredible experience, a mediation, everything about it right through to working with my printer back in London and seeing the images for the first time… 

But it was a few years later when I made the conscious decision, in 2013 I sat back and reflected on my work to that point, thinking about all I’d done, it brought me to these pictures… It was then I decided I would try Yoga Photography, I returned to London contacted the Jivamukti teacher Cat Alip-Douglas if we could takes some pictures, inspire by my portraits she obliged. After this session I saw a picture of her husband Phil, sensing it’s importance, I asked if I could take a picture of the two of them - I’ll ask Phil’ 2 hours later I got a text, Phil says yes… 

I then entered this picture in the the Taylor messing competition with the title ‘Cat & Phil’, I’d got a few weeks to shoot and submit a print. I headed to their studio in West London and took 2 frames, knowing they weren’t right, I changed everything around, and took one more frame - that was the frame. I arrived on November 14th 2013 to find this image on a huge banner on the outside of the National Portrait Gallery… 

The universes confirmation I was on the right track… 


A few months later, In the same Indian village of Gokarna, I found my practice of Ashtanga.


What has been your most memorable shoot so far?

Mongolia… I met Another Jivamukti teacher, Emma Henry, at a Yoga Journal conference in Germany, I was out there shooting a series for the magazine, part of a series I do with the German face reader, Eric Standop entitled ‘Portraits of a Soul - Face Reading Poems’ Emma was there teaching… On the bus from the airport we got talking and she mentioned she was doing a retreat in Mongolia, I was so incredibly excited I shouted ‘Can I carry your bags…?’ 

A few weeks later back in London, Emma had already set the balls in motion, and arranged a meeting with Jools, the owner of the retreat company ’Reclaim Your Self’, we all met in the coffee shop in Brixton Village ‘Federation’ and began discussing the magic we could create and getting incredibly excited - it's a country I’d wanted to travel for almost 12 years…

Sadly there wasn’t the budget for me and the pictures, so I started brainstorming ideas and funding options, Emma was an ambassador for Lululemon so she introduced me to Bronwen. We met for coffee, I was sat in the back in the corner, there was no reception and no wifi, I noticed a lady in yoga leggings - ‘are you Bronwen…?’ that 30 minute meeting turned into a 3 hour chat about life, but I will never forget the first 6 words she said ‘So, we’re sending you to Mongolia’

We were off to Mongolia to document the first ever retreat in the East Gobi Desert…


Describe a day in the life of Richard Pilnick! 

I guess one of the reasons I do what I do is because I never really got on with routines, well, forced routines - like a Monday to Friday, 09:00 - 17:00, so it’s rare that two days are the same… But being back in the Indian village of Gokarna, I have a bit more of one, so I’ll describe what I did today… I was awoken by the roosters about 05:15, I got up as quietly as possible so not to wake my Carly & Fabian-Ray, gathered my yoga mat and headed down to the beach for morning meditation followed by a light practice. Headed back, had a shower and Fabian-Ray and I went to the local chai shop for breakfast while Carly went to practice. 

The village chai shop does the best vegan ‘banana buns’ served with potato and coconut chutney, I haven’t found this dish anywhere else - only this village and they are incredible…! The owners love Fabian-Ray, so he always get cuddles and taken in to the shop, it’s actually spawned a new portrait project which I will be started in the next few days ‘the people I’ve met’ it will be a series of portraits with all the people who’ve had a connection with Fabian-Ray whilst we’ve been here, he’s only 1 so will also be a beautiful memory for him… 

After Carly had finished practice we headed to the beach, a swim in the sea and coffee at Seaweed cafe, a beach restaurant at the end of the beach. They also do one of the best thali’s in town, so we stay for lunch, friends always came and go, with conversation abut life and experience come in-between building sandcastles which Fabian-Ray instantly destroys… 

Then comes afternoon nap time for Fabian-Ray and Carly, which gives me some time for afternoon meditation and do some work. working on a lot of images for a new website coming soon ‘www.yogaphotography.com’ a project very close to my heart I’ve been working on for just over a year - watch this space… and also planning a portrait shoot here for January 2nd… Then we take another dip in the sea, a slow walk down the beach watching sunset, a beer, dinner then back to the village to get Fabian-Ray into bed, a little more work then off to bed - we have to go to town tomorrow - it always takes a lot of energy… 



Do you practice yoga yourself and what does it mean to you? 

I do, I practice Ashtanga, for me it’s about re centering, grounding and coming back to my inner core, since I began practicing and meditating it’s given me so much focus of who I am and where I’m going. My mind is always very active, so by quietening the internal noise allows me to really listen to my inner voice, my soul and move forward.

Although I have to be honest, this year, after the birth of my son, it’s been a challenge and a new ‘practice’ so finding time to get on the mat in the last year has been tough and I’ve really felt it…     



Five items you can't live without? 

I assume you’re talking about inanimate objects, they would be… 

 - Camera & film, when I look back through my pictures I realise that all the work I have created I see my journey, looking at the portraits and reading the face reading poems by Eric Standop I gain a little more insight to my own life & purpose. I feel I have evolved and continue to evolve so much through photography.

 - Pad & fountain pen, I am quite a traditionalist and still love the feel of a pen in the hand of an iPhone and notes… It’s always good to write things down in ink, film/book recommendations, project ideas, brainstorming, or even drafting this interview… 

 - My bike, when I look back I see this was my first yogic practice, my first meditation, for years I’d take long rides - I see now it was for the purpose of quietening the mind or removing a creative blockage.

 - Yoga mat, I travel quite a lot with what I do, but no matter where I am, I can lay down my mat and for the moment I return home. With my mat, I can reconnect and ground myself wherever I find myself… 


 - My B&W P7 headphones and  a listening device, I love music, but I want to be able to feel the music, not just listen, the sound quality of these is incredible, you’re emotionally connected to the music… Also I spend a fair amount of time at a computer, post production, emailing & editing and I’ve just got in to audio books - it’s a great way to listening to inspiration content while working… 



For more of Richard's stunning inspirational photography check out:

www.richardpilnick.com
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