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.