In July 2018, Les rencontres d’Arles hosted Contemplation, a black and white exhibition curated by Matthieu Ricard. Under the vault of a bamboo and reed pavilion designed by Colombian architect Simon Velez, the 40 large-format photographs printed on Japanese paper stood. This collaboration marks a unique encounter between two arts – photography and architecture.

The Contemplation exhibition shows how extraordinary it is to work with nature.

Simon Velez

A hymn to altruism and respect for all beings

These photos, taken between 1983 and 2017, are a testament to a lifetime dedicated to the spiritual quest. Each photo is accompanied by a handwritten quote from the photographer on the themes of introspection and meditation. Between Nepal, India, Tibet but also Bhutan and Chile, Matthieu plunges us into a chiaroscuro universe, where light emerges from the fullness of distant landscapes and invites us to contemplate the world, and ourselves.

A structure rooted in spirituality

The 80-meter long pavilion of the maloca is a traditional habitat of the Orinoco basin, north of the Amazon, where village communities live under the same roof. These buildings are harmoniously rooted in nature, which these populations consider sacred. Another way to recall the interdependence between all beings and their environment: the architecture of the place creates a bridge with the spiritual commitments of the photographer.

A print in the Japanese tradition

The photographs were printed on awagami, a traditional Japanese paper first used 1,400 years ago. Contemplation is a communion of arts: the bamboo structure of the architecture diffuses a chiaroscuro light that illuminates the black and white photographs of the photographer, printed according to a thousand-year-old Japanese technique.

(Re)experiencing the exhibition in pictures

In May 2021, Laurent – a volunteer cameraman for Karuna-Shechen – shared images of the opening of Matthieu Ricard’s photographic exhibition, “Contemplations”, at the Rencontres de la Photo in Arles. This montage was made within the framework of Action for Karuna, a movement of solidarity initiatives organized every year by Karuna whose objective is to raise funds for the association.

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