My photography is about separation — about a piece of glass separating me from a person or from the world. But then, several months ago, I was confronted with my limitations. I had a sort of mini-meltdown and started doing this made-up form of meditation. At one point when I was in Finland, as squirrels were eating nuts out of my hand, I was meditating on a rock and had this total, I-am-one-with-the-universe feeling, and it went against everything I believed. I knew I couldn’t look at my work in the same way after Finland, and I just wanted to keep figuring out what that feeling I experienced there was.
I’d always wanted to visit India, but I never wanted to photograph there. I’m not good with the exotic, and I didn’t want to fall into cliché. But I had heard about this laughter yoga that sounded incredible — a type of meditation developed by a doctor named Madan Kataria, who had the idea that laughing for no reason can make life better. Your body can’t tell the difference between real and fake laughter.
In India, because of the sensory overload, you just feel like the country — the place, everything around you — is going into you. Kataria talks about India as this smorgasbord of spiritual matters. So I went, and all of a sudden I was open to sitting in a circle, to looking in people’s eyes, to laughing.
– AS TOLD TO JAIME LOWE
Alec Soth is a member of the Magnum photo agency. His exhibition “Gathered Leaves” opens in February at Fotomuseum in Antwerp, Belgium.
Jaime Lowe is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn.