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Today, YellowKorner is pleased to present the exceptional work of one of our emblematic photographers: Matthieu Ricard. The official interpreter in French to the Dalai Lama is a figure who needs no introduction. He is also a talented photographer whose artworks have garnered international fame. Through his photographs, Matthieu Ricard does not only present the wild beauty of the mountain landscapes or the majesty of ancient buildings; they also reveal the extraordinarily rich diversity of Tibet as well as the artist’s trajectory, as he is now the most famous Buddhist monk in the West. His photographs are available in numbered limited edition in our galleries and on the website.

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Matthieu Ricard was born in 1946 in France. It was at the age of 10 that he first started out in the world of photography and received “a Foca Sport”, a little analogue camera. For 10 years, despite criticism, he persisted and continued to take photos and to improve his technique.

The seed was sown when he was twenty. Two of his friends, Frédérick Leboyer and Arnaud Desjardins, showed him portraits of Tibetan spiritual masters that they had just encountered on the slopes of the Himalayas. These portraits, as well as the films brought back by Arnaud, were to truly change his life.

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One thing led to another and Matthieu Ricard decided to leave France in 1972 to live as a Buddhist monk among these masters who had so deeply inspired him.

That was how portraits sparked almost half a century of life in the Himalayas, spent studying and practising among the great Tibetan masters, immersing himself in their wisdom and loving kindness. Finally, it was Matthieu Ricard's turn to take portraits of them.

“I use photography as a source of hope, which restores confidence in human nature and revives our awe at the natural world around us.”

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After fifty years of photos and a digital transition, Matthieu Ricard now leads a full-time double life as a photographer-monk. Loyal to his childhood passion, he continues to photograph the spiritual masters, life in the monasteries, the art and landscapes of Tibet, Bhutan, and Nepal, and the populations of the Himalayan region.

His passion for images is such that, now and then, Matthieu Ricard even interrupts his meditation to capture the right photograph. As he knows that a specific light cannot wait.

Through his books and photographs, we find the goal of Matthieu Ricard’s artistic project: not only to plunge the spectator into the daily life of Himalayan populations, the intimacy of the monasteries, the magnificence of the Nepalese mountains, and the serenity of Bhutanese valleys; but also to allow others to discover this “joyful resilience” that he has found in the eyes of so many people throughout his travels.

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Faced with the “banality of evil” theorised by Hannah Arendt, Matthieu Ricard wants to recall the banality of good, “eclipsed by this violence that we overexpose, while the 7 billion humans who populate the planet behave decently most of the time.”

He has thus chosen to celebrate the inner beauty of human nature, in order to restore confidence and hope to those who would doubt humanity’s potential for altruism and compassion.

His preferred subjects are smiles, and faces full of benevolence, and candour. For Matthieu Ricard, it is certainly not a question of minimising the dramas that stem from violence, persecution, and cruelty, but of highlighting this “banality of goodness”, which is more often present in our lives than that of evil.

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As proof of his commitment, all of Matthieu Ricard's royalties, as well as the proceeds from his conferences and the sale of his photos are dedicated to the humanitarian association that he created, Karuna-Shechen. Based on the vision of “compassion in action”, Karuna Shechen has developed more than 200 educational, medical, and social projects in the Himalayan region, for the benefit of the most impoverished populations.

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