Sarit Z. Rogers is a Los Angeles based photographer, writer, New Media Manager, yogi, teacher, and founder of the LoveMore Movement. She has photographed many covers including the forthcoming anthology, Yoga and Body Image. Sarit regularly writes about mental health, addiction, and recovery. Sarit has completed the 200hr Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind teacher training with Julian Walker and Hala Khouri, and is also certified by Street Yoga. Sarit teaches trauma-informed yoga to adolescents and to private clients in recovery. She uses her camera to create a visual conversation and as a bridge to connection. She is a body image advocate and activist, and she is committed to honoring those who play in front of her lens. Find her website here.

And because Sarit has lots to say, we decided that it's time to change the format here and add a brief interview with the photographer. Sarit answered four questions for us:

What drew you to photography?

I picked up a camera for the first time when I was around 5, perhaps earlier. My father was a photographer along with my uncle and my grandfather. It seems to be one of those things that is in the blood. As a child, my father built a darkroom in our home, and it was a place where I discovered the magic of watching things come to life. The scent of the developer and the fixer permeating the near darkness that was littered with soft yellow light felt safe and peaceful. Time didn't seem to exist. I learned how to shoot with my father's Olympus OM1. In typical childlike form, technical know-how wasn't really what I cared about. I just wanted to capture what I saw in this cool metal contraption.  I continued to dabble in photography throughout my life, but I didn't really take it seriously until 2004 when I decided to take a class (and eventually complete the SMC photography program).

My old love was rekindled and it felt like I had put on my favorite sweater. Once again, I was enveloped in the scent of developer and fixer, this time I was blanketed in a soft red light, and I knew I was home.  This time, I didn't dabble, I threw myself into the technical side and the creative side like my life depended on it. I used my camera as a way to speak when I couldn't, and I realized that creating images could be an act of rebellion; it could be a tool for healing deep, traumatic wounds; it could be a way to sing into the darkness; it could be a way to paint with light; it could be a way to tell untold stories. For me, photography was and continues to be a form of visual poetry.

What drew you to yoga photography?

Every time I would see a yoga magazine, or popular image of someone practicing yoga, I saw something I felt was unrelatable or even perhaps unattainable. The images never represented the broad diversity that is yoga. Notably, I have always been a fierce advocate for body image awareness and equality. Another observation I had was that many of the yogis photographed looked similar: young, white, thin, and extraordinarily flexible. There seemed to be several demographics, cultures, races, and body types missing.  Why?  When I was asked to submit images for consideration for the 21st Century Yoga book cover, I saw it as an opportunity to begin to shift the paradigm. So much of this beautiful practice is outside of the refinement of the studio and I saw an opportunity to capture that. What happened was, my heart cracked open when I began photographing yoga. As a singer, I felt like yogis were making music, but this time with their breath and their bodies. Sometimes that music is symphonic in nature, sometimes, it's a dirge; sometimes it's balls-to-the-wall metal, and sometimes, it's an operatic aria. It's glorious! It also presented an interesting opportunity to take the practice off of the mat, out of the studio, and into the grit and grime of Los Angeles and beyond.

What strikes you as interesting or noteworthy in terms of your experiences with yoga photography?

To me, photography is a partnership – a union between the photographer and the person being photographed. Yoga photography is no different, yet most yoga images are aimed at selling a product; the person photographed is the product.

There is an inherent communication that needs to happen in order for the images to be authentically captured, and for the person being photographed to feel grounded and connected to their body. I continue to hear a lot of negative body talk, self-loathing, and fear: "I need to lose 10 pounds before you photograph me," or "I'm not bendy enough," et cetera. However, my intention is to always honor and celebrate those I photograph, be they tall, short, curvy, or skinny. We are perfect in our imperfections and the truth is, every day on our mats is different from the last. That's part of the practice: showing up for what is and holding it with compassion. I see my photography the same way. It's a practice of compassion, love, communication, respect, and honoring the person in front of my lens. I'm not selling a product but rather creating a visual conversation and indication of the practice: its imperfections, the dirty feet and everything in between.

How do you use your photography to impact the world?

This sense of celebrating people and my activism, led me to form the LoveMore Movement. I photograph activism and participate in activism whenever I can. I have done so since my early teens. I remember getting lambasted in high school over an anti-apartheid speech. I know no other way. The unseen need to be seen; the silenced need to be heard; the lost need to be loved and respected.

I started photographing people who are doing the shadow work and leaning toward difficulty instead of recoiling from it for the LoveMore Movement book and site. I will be writing about each of them and asking them to share how they LoveMore with me. Eventually, this will be a book of images and writing, all going to benefit others. We donate a portion of everything sold by the LoveMore Movement to organizations like VDay, Off the Mat, Into the World, and Against the Stream Meditation Society. It was and continues to be a practice of generosity of the spirit, a willingness to love with intent, and a willingness to crack ourselves open to our vulnerability and compassion in order to help others. There are a ton of yogis and meditation teachers involved in this project. It's been a remarkable way to honor my own practice and determination not to use my camera as a weapon of mass perfection, but to use it as a vehicle for change.

We are starting to get noticed, which makes my heart sing: The LoveMore Movement is the Community Partner and sponsor for the Los Angeles teacher training for Street Yoga in October of this year which they are holding at One Down Dog in Silverlake. I completed my Street Yoga training last year, after finishing my Awakened Heart, Embodied Mind teacher training with Hala Khouri and Julian Walker.

 

Born and raised on a small island near Seattle, Washington, my childhood was a fairy tale montage of imagination-induced escapades inspired by Star Wars and Calvin and Hobbes. Since before I can remember, I've had a passion for creating compulsively, intending to spread love and positive energy through my art.
 
I am now a nomadic art business and scribe of spiritual teachings, currently traveling in Southeast Asia, continuing my practice and study of yoga and meditation. I write and illustrate my own books, and work as a freelance illustrator with clients around the world. I am currently available for freelance work (visit ericdebarros.com to see more of my art and get in touch with me).
 
Marlene Koenig's bio: I have been making art for over 20 years, and for the last 9 years or so my work has been involved with the use of Encaustics.  The pieces I make are created in layers – basically, I create an oil painting and then adhere a water color painting to it  (usually the figures in my pieces).  And then a layer of encaustic medium is then placed on top of that. Then I proceed to alternate between oil paint and encaustic pigments to create a multidimensional effect in my work.
 
I am also committed to the practice of Yoga. Over the past several years my art work has been concerned with exploring my relationship with my Yoga practice. On one level, my paintings explore specific Yoga Asanas  in a very special way, while on another I have been able to explore more spiritually such Yoga concepts as Ahimsa  (non-violence),  Aparigraha  (non-grasping),  and  Santosha  (contentment).  In creating my paintings, then, I am able to explore more and more deeply what these concepts truly mean to me, and the role they play in my daily life and practices.
 
Having something of a gypsy spirit in me, I have also traveled quite extensively ‒ through India,  Nepal,  Morocco,  Mexico,  Brazil,  Argentina,  Europe,  and  Thailand.  Encountering the colors and patterns and objects with which the people of these cultures adorn themselves and fill their worlds has enriched my life tremendously,  and expanded my abilities to adorn and celebrate my own. I am continually inspired by how we animate and decorate ourselves and the way these things play out in how we live our everyday lives.
 
And so by layering the spiritual and the decorative throughout all of my work it is my hope that the viewer of my art will take away something to enhance their own journey and make a little more beautiful the path they have chosen and the world we live in.
 
Contact Marlene through www.marlenekoenig.com.
 

Heather Bonker's photos impressed us immediately -- striking images in an exotic locale. We're always looking for the unusual, and this is a body of work well worth checking out. We chose the images in series of threes. Heather writes of herself and her work:

"Originally a California native, I’ve had the gift of living in yoga and photographic rich Bali Indonesia…by way of a several other countries first. Photography is a personal passion that has evolved from a confluence of other deep-seated interests that keep me thriving everyday…yoga, the psychology of people, travel, love of physical form, details, gestures…They all get me excited and in combination it’s pure delight.

I’m a sucker for the unguarded moment when the personality flashes an honest gesture or a beautifully “unmodeled” and uninhibited smile. There’s even a greater satisfaction when having to really draw someone out and create something they never thought possible for themselves. If that’s all you ever know about me, it’s enough to say you know how I am constructed.

In addition to photography, I’m a devoted yoga practitioner and 500 ERYT teacher, currently teaching and running yoga teacher training programs with Radiantly Alive Yoga in Bali. The natural plethora of sojourning students and teachers alike wanting their keepsake experiences captured makes for diverse gifts of yoga photography."

Find more of her work on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeatherBonkerPhotography

Please note that the photo of Heather was taken by and is © Cynthia Sciberras.

Through the lens of international yoga photographer Sandy Foster, a yoga portrait is more than just a picture. It is a living, breathing extension of the pose itself, a tribute to the subject's indomitable inner spirit and radiant beauty. Sandy, herself a dedicated yogi and certified yoga instructor, has an intuitive knack for choosing lighting and settings that complement her subject's personality, creating a portrait that is as personal as it is artistically astute. A master of light, composition, texture and mood, Sandy transforms every asana into a magical symbol of longevity and joy which can be appreciated by yogis and non-yogis alike. With a deep connection to the natural world, Sandy's goal is to use her innovative and playful artwork as global inspiration. View Sandy’s work on her website www.yogablissphoto.com, follow her on Twitter at @yogablissphoto and Facebook at  www.fb.com/yogablissphoto.

Wari Om is a yoga photographer and video editor from Barcelona. He is currently working on photographic and video projects for various yoga magazines, yoga festivals and yoga studios, with the goal to present a positive and inspiring vision of yoga around the world. He is also a yoga and acroyoga teacher and runs the Omshanti Yoga Studio with his siblings Pau and Isis. Together they have organized the Barcelona Yoga Conference every year since 2011. Upcoming projects will bring him to New York, Massachussets, Berlin, Geneva and many other locations around the world, always with the same aim and perspective: YOGA.

Jim Campbell is a photographer, engineer and yoga teacher living in Boulder, Colorado. After discovering yoga for himself in 2005, he began taking pictures of yogis, and from that came Omlight Photography. He teaches a men-only class at The Little Yoga Studio. He has this to say about his work:

 “Through my photography, I feel I become part of, a witness of, the person’s inner shining, true self expressions. It is a beautiful process. People almost forget that I am there with my camera capturing them in various yoga postures, as they lose themselves in their inner practice.”

With Jim’s approval we chose photographs that highlighted moments in teaching.