Ananda really is the best

Bhrigu - October 19, 2007 2:32 pm

We've known it all along, but now it is officially proven: Ananda really is the best cultural magazine here in Finland. Today we have received the first prize in the competion Cultural Magazine of the Year! I have just returned from the award ceremony, where Kamalaksa, Jayananda, his wife Astasakhi and I represented Ananda.


This is the press info (my translation):


About Ananda, the jury said: "They must be using some kind of spiritual energy, since they can make such a magazine with those resources!" "It would be easy to dismiss this magazine, but it does not leave anyone on the outside. Even if one has never done any yoga, the magazine does not make you feel guilty; rather, it offers an extremely beautiful hand to everyone." Furthermore the jury said that the magazine is not directed only to dedicated practitioners, but invites everyone interested in knowing more, and nicely combines different levels of engagement. The warm layout supports this, which has kind of a 'homemade' mood, in a positive way. According to the jury, Ananda is in a positive way like a woman's magazine, in trusting well-known article formats, which also makes for easier reading -- the reader is made to feel welcome. The magazine's asana-pictures deserve a special mention; they are clear and daring.




Kamalaksa will follow up with pictures and perhaps some more info. I wish to thank Guru Maharaja for his continuing support for our magazine. As I'm sure you all know, he has written a column for every issue, and I sincerely hope that he will continue to grace our humble offering with his presence in the future as well. Sri-sri-gurv-arpanam astu!

Vrindaranya Dasi - October 19, 2007 3:16 pm



Ecstatic! Brihat mridanga ki jaya!!!

Rathi Krishna Dasa - October 19, 2007 3:30 pm

Excellent. Congratulations. :)

Babhru Das - October 19, 2007 4:09 pm

This is wonderful news! It's not exactly a shock, though, is it? Congratulations to all, and thank you for your wonderful example.

Syamasundara - October 19, 2007 4:12 pm

I am very proud of you all. :)

Kamalaksa Das - October 19, 2007 6:59 pm

The boys are back in town!


Receiving the price, three quarters of our full-time staff dressed up like the dog's dinner. (Krishangi being absent because she really had to work, following the vedic custom that women provide for their husbands' livelihood.)


We got up on stage, we smiled politely and Bhrigu held a short thank you speech. During which he promised that we would decline from entering the competition next year in order to give the other 170 magazines a fair chance. For during the two times the price has been handed out Ananda has received the judges' honorary mention (last year) and now the first price. We wouldn't want to hog all the prices for all evernity. Modesty is a vaishnava quality, or so they say... :)


In the history of galas held in the honor of merited individuals in the publishing business we also probably made history, as our entire staff present only drank water - a trait highly uncommon in the midst of journalists. Especially since alcoholic beverages were served our for free.


(Unfortunately not visible in the picture - my homemade press sign sticking out from the rim in my hat. Dressed for the occasion.)


Caitanya-daya Dd - October 19, 2007 8:35 pm

very, very cool!

Vivek - October 20, 2007 2:54 am

congratulations to all finnish devotees!! jai!

Kamalaksa Das - October 20, 2007 10:55 am

Two stories


Now that the name Ananda is on everyones lips I thought I would share with you a few stories from making the magazine. Just so that all you non-Finnish speaking can get a glimpse into the glamorous world of magazine publishing.


As some of you might know, the layout for the magazine has been planned jointly by Krishangi and me, while Krishangi now is in charge of the practical layout from issue to issue. I on the other hand have been designated to function as the main photographer for our paper.


One thing you need to understand is that not one of us has any education to speak of in regard to journalism, be it writing or photography. We have just assigned a person that seems most qualified to do the work no one else is able to do.


I am the photographer for a few reasons. First reason, I own a camera. That's a huge bonus if your going into photography! Second reason, I have a rudimentary understanding of form and light. These qualities are good too. And as third reason, I have a way of commanding people without being too shy, as well as being able to improvise when things look gloomy.


And what we have found out in a really tangiable way is that you grow with your assignments. Now all this is not to say that I'm anything of a real photographer. In fact, I grinch everytime someone even implies that. Like yesterday when one online newssite, when reporting on the price Ananda received, presented me as photographer.


Fortunately we have had help from real photographers like my former student Kristoffer Åberg, who has performed miracles.


But let's move on. I will now share with how a basic assignment looks like for the one holding the camera. Other staff members can then follow by telling how the making of Ananda looks from their perspective.

Kamalaksa Das - October 20, 2007 10:59 am

Story number one


Everyone who has ever taken a picture knows that good lighting is the key to a succesful picture. Good lighting makes the picture, bad lighting ruins it more or less, no matter how nice the compostition is. Problem is that lighting in nature is kind of to control - my yogic powers do not yet extend to moving clouds or making the sun rise. Lucky for me I've got friends in high places!


Evidence of this came when I was shooting the cover for our next issue.


But let me first walk you through what it takes to get good pictures in general. There are a few things that ideally should be tought of before even having the model present. Number one, you need a nice location. Then there is of course the question of how to define a nice location. For me, nice location does not automaticaly imply a beautiful garden - even though it might be just that. The outdoors provide many times nicer lighting and more freedom to look for nice angles, while shooting indoors many times keeps the model happier. A nice location should also have some correlation to what the model is all about, not just chosen randomly. This is to be taken into consideration when doing a person portrait.


Number two, you need lighting. If you're shooting outdoors, ideally you should check out at what time the lighting works best for you. From what direction does the light hit the scene? Do you need reflectors to soften the contrast? And so forth.


Number three, check the weather forecast, and book your model on a day that promises at least somewhat agreable conditions. What this means in practise is also something that has to be decided from case to case. And as we in Ananda function on a purely volontary basis, we very rarely have the possibility to take this step in consideration - we shoot whenever the model chooses to be present. And many times this calls for improvising.


Now we return to the cover shoot. We had looked up two places as potential backgrounds a few days earlier. And discarded a few which on closer inspection didn't work. Plus the evening before we took some test pictures to see how they really work out. The funny thing is that many times something that in the nature is brilliant as anything turns out to be completely flat when viewed through the lens of a camera.


And then sunday arrived, along with the model. The models are sent to me by either Bhrigu or Jayananda, and many times I have no understanding how they look like or what they are like before meeting them. This issue's cover girl was so thin and skinny that my first reaction was to run to the kitchen, grab a can of ghee, and start force feeding her. But first we had to take the pictures.


So we took the car to a small boulevard, surrounded by beautiful autumny leaves. But it was not before i had set up my equipment and done a few test shots of the model in position that the scene came to life. Suddenly everything changed. The sun burned away the mist in the air, and suddenly the whole environment just started sparkling in beautiful colors. I quickly fired away shot after shot mentally thanking the celestial beings who made this possible.


We then drove to the second spot, took another set of pictures which also turned out quite nice, and ten minutes after ending the shoot the sun dissapeared in a cast of mid-gray clouds not to be seen again that day.




After bidding farewell to our model I called up Jayananda who is our yoga and asana editor to tell him about the photoshoot. When he picked up the phone I jokingly told him "God loves us!"


Before he had the time to question my Jehova's Witness styled opening I continued to tell him how the conditions changed favorably for us five minutes before our session, only to change back to gloomy ten minutes after we were done.


Jayananda, known to have a keen philosophical eye, answered that he concurred with my initial analysis. He said that he has no doubt that Krishna would look favorably on our attempts to steer the Finnish yoga community toward a more personal understanding of the absolute, thus helping us in our efforts by letting the sun shine when needed. And while I know these things kind of lose their magic when put into writing, I still wanted to share this with you. And I assure you that the feeling of a higher power helping us out was a genuine one.


But let the pictures speak for themselves. Two versions - no sunlight and sunlight. Pick one. (The jacket the model is wearing in the no sun picture is provided by me - I didn't want her to freeze to death before we had our cover done.) :)



Kamalaksa Das - October 20, 2007 1:54 pm

Story number two


Last Thursday I was scheduled to take pictures for our small interview spot. As those who have skimmed through more than one Ananda know, we have quite strict departments that make up the rhytm of the magazine. First we start with short and many times easy going material, including book reviews, tips, short questions and answers and so forth. Then we have the main interview, often a famous or at least well known person who is in some way connected to the yogic lifestyle.


The interview is followed by the asana article, in which one asana is highlighted plus a step by step guide is given. Then comes the food section, with recipies and instructions ranging from telling different legumens apart to knowing your spices. After which the small interview is served, a person presented that need not be famous, but has to be interesting in some way.


In between this main sections we have our columnists who range from speaking about the vaisnava philosophy and theology (that would be Guru Maharaja) to animal rights, or thoughts from yogies who want to express themselves. And of course Krishangi's columns, in which she ponders upon whether she is too fat or too old or too materialistic while somehow being able to everytime bring along something from the vaisnava way of looking at the world.


Anyway, this time I would shoot pictures of an Ananda marga nun called Didi Annapurna. Krishangi had set up a meeting at a place called Arabia (in Helsinki - Bhrigu probably wouldn't sign any checks for my photography trips to the middle east... lousy budget cuts..!) It's a nice neighbourhood, lots of nature and big parks. Plus the sea is close by too. Lots of building is also going on in Arabia, as the university has expanded, and more and more people are moving to Helsinki.


Because Krishangi had to go to work, and we travelled in the same car, I arrived at the meeting place an hour and a half too early. Which was good, as it gave me time to scout for good spots. My brother had hinted that there was a nice pond and an old brick building close by, so I set course in that direction.


I walked for a few blocks, but was somehow drawn towards the sea. A quick right, and I spotted a beautiful old industrial building probably from the 60's which was being torn down. I was fast to check it out from all available sides, and checked for possible security. Unfortunately there were men working there, so doing the photo shoot in stealth mode was not an option.


Well, what's there to lose, I asked myself, and set foot towards the construction workers. I presented myself as a photographer (there I go again...) and told them that my model would be arriving in an hour, and that I would ask for permission to use their site as a background.


Their first, and only question of relevance from their side followed. "Will the model be naked?" Their enthusiasm for my photo shoot diminished visibly when I told them that the hindu nun I was shooting probably would stay fully clothed throughout our session. But all hope wasn't lost yet. One of the guys told me I should call his supervisor, but that he himself had no problem with me taking a few pictures.


(Not surprisingly, self proclaimed feminist Krishangi blew up when she heard about this incident. And didn't even get it when I tried to explain to her that for these guys the possibility of earning a livelihood by shooting naked ladies was something better than winning the lottery. A kind of Shangri La of work for men who wear steel capped boots.)


And this time too lady luck was with me. The supervisor was a friendly, albeit a bit jaded man, whose only advice after granting me permission was to see to it that no one gets hurt. "Lets not have a brick hit the hindu in the head, right?" Right, I replyed, thanked the man, and went looking for my model. Who wasn't that hard to spot.


I greeted her, and showed her the direction towards the chosen spot. She tried to suggest that near by was a nice pond that she usually meditated by, but I chose to decline this offer. "That also a good idea", I told her, "but let's try this one out first..."


Now if some of you think I had gone bonkers taking a nun to a demolishing site, you are wrong. For in her interview she puts forward quite strong words about the state of this world, speaking about activism, true non-violence and the polarisation of opinions. So my choice of spot was actually supported by the text, not that I just forced my own interests and visual preferences on the poor nun. (Although the potential for my forcing own aesthetics on others was not an unthinkable option for me, so before shooting the pictures I ran my ideas by both Krishangi and Bhrigu. Just to be on the safe side.)


Now you know the story, here's the picture. Enjoy


Vrindaranya Dasi - October 20, 2007 3:34 pm

And when all else fails, don't underestimate PhotoShop to bring out a little sun!


Before: post-5-1192894284_thumb.jpg After: post-5-1192894318_thumb.jpg


"What's the best type of light? Why that would be available light...and by available light I mean any damn light that is available." --W. Eugene Smith

Syama Gopala Dasa - October 20, 2007 6:31 pm

Great news! It just doesn't seem to stop over in Finland.

Kamalaksa Das - October 20, 2007 7:28 pm

Yeah, Photoshop can perform miracles, but in the end it's easier to get it right from the start. You're still missing out on those glimmering leaves in the trees and on the ground, plus the shadows that bring yet another dimension. Certainly doable, but easier when you have the sun on your side from the start! :)


But seriously for a while, it's quite scary how surrounded we have become by the enhanced reality of Photoshop. And while I know photo retouching is as old as photography itself, our digital era has taken it to an entirely different sphere. Especially when we take into consideration that even when a photograph is first taken we manipulate reality. What is left out, what is shown, how it is shown, how we make use of lighting etc. all manipulate our perception. So in a sense we're fooled twice.


One site I usually show my young students in order to show them how distorted the pictures featured to us advertising are, is the site of an American retouching pro. His name is Glenn Feron, and he has a incredible (you be the judge of whether this is a positive attribute or a negative one) skill to manipulate visual reality to conform with our understanding of ideal beauty (or probably more accurately our understanding of ideal sexuality).


The thing that sets this apart from just watching at naughty pictures over the internet is that he shows the pictures in his portfolio as after and before. You go to the page, wait for the image to upload, move your cursor on it and bam! A reality check commences. Butts grow rounder, breast get bigger, hair gets thicker, waists get slimmer. You get the picture. (Funny thing is the male models don't have as much done on them...)


An example of the thing I'm refering to: (Safe to view, passed by IBFUBI (International board for upholding brahmacharic ideals)).




A similar thing is displayed in cosmetic manufacturer Dove's commercial that speaks up for a more natural ideal of beauty. It can be found on Youtube. If you have enough bandwidth i recomend this one, too:




To understand that the models we see around us in either print or film exist only in a realm of digital manipulation is for many a freeing experience. Those we mirror ourselves with are not real. There is no live role model to live up to. Or at least not one as unobtainable as these.


For those that want to see more manipulated images, check out the entire portfolio. Nothing too raunchy, but not brahmachari material either. (Thus not approved by the IBFUBI)




Yes, photographs do lie!

Nitaisundara Das - October 21, 2007 1:54 am
An example of the thing I'm refering to: (Safe to view, passed by IBFUBI (International board for upholding brahmacharic ideals)).




:) I'm skeptical, I think I'll just stay away all together :)

Citta Hari Dasa - October 21, 2007 4:40 pm

Well done Ananda crew!


About the retouched photos, it's a perfect metaphor for the material world: it ain't exactly what it appears to be.

Tadiya Dasi - October 21, 2007 4:44 pm

:Big Grin:




Well done, I am so happy for you! (And I love the picture of you guys receiving the award! :) Krsangi was telling me how she wanted more women to contribute to Ananda, so it wouldn't be seen as some kind of "men's club", and looking at this photo I was thinking: that's exactly how it looks like in this picture - I think it might be Kamalaksa's hat that is causing the association for me ;) - all that is missing are the wine classes and cigars :P:lol:)


Interesting to see that picture of the Ananda marga -nun. I've seen her sometimes in Helsinki, and I've wondered who she is and what tradition she is representing. Now I know :)

Bhrigu - October 21, 2007 6:10 pm
all that is missing are the wine classes and cigars tongue.


:Party: Well, as Kamalaksa said, they did offer us wine, but we turned that down. But who knows how we would have reacted to fat Cuban cigars -- puffing away at them would definitely have looked cool in the picture... :Applause:

Kamalaksa Das - October 21, 2007 7:48 pm

Sorry, no cigars. Would a pipe do?


(picture of a much younger Bhrigu taken from a postcard ad for our website. And yes, we are working on a make-over, as soon as some kind soul invents a 25th hour to the day...:Party: )


Prema-bhakti - October 21, 2007 9:26 pm
:Party: I'm skeptical, I think I'll just stay away all together :Applause:


Good boy! :Big Grin:


According to my sensibilties the portfolio is raunchy and gross and I am not even a bramacari! :lol:


I like the Dove ad though.

Prema-bhakti - October 21, 2007 9:28 pm

Great job! Congrats!