He became a disciple of Khyongla Rinpoche, attracted by his teachings about the importance of diminishing “self-cherishing” and negativity, and developing compassion for others. Three years later, he became a full-fledged monk and the only Westerner in a settlement of 20,000. Faced with the rigors of a devout life, he gave up photography for a while, until Martine Franck, the widow of Cartier-Bresson, visited his monastery and persuaded him to embrace it anew.
Nicholas Vreeland with a tea merchant in New Delhi, India
Vreeland insists that he is not an artist at all, just a busy monk who happens to find pleasure in taking pictures, and honor in photographing the Dalai Lama on several occasions. (It was the Dalai Lama who appointed him abbot.) Almost sheepishly, dutifully keeping pride at bay, he admits that it was only by selling his photographs to collectors that the planned expansion of the monastery (to house an enormous wave of refugee Tibetan monks) was made possible. Vreeland understands and employs the power of art without seeking any of its ego luster. When filmmakers Guido Santi and Tina Mascara asked to make him the subject of a documentary, he declined until his master told him it would benefit others.
Nicholas Vreeland (LA review of books)
Monk with a Camera Trailer (youtube)
Directed by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara
More touching and moving story of Christopher Isharwood and Don Bacardy was also directed by Santi and Tina Mascara
Chris and Don by David Hockney
“Chris & Don: A Love Story”