About fifteen years ago I was introduced to Geshe Nicky Vreeland through a lawyer friend who had been helping Tibetan refugees with their immigration. At the time I had been practicing Buddhism for about five years and my friend thought I would really appreciate meeting Geshe Nicky as we share a love of photography.
Nicky grew up in very sophisticated surroundings, between his father, who was a diplomat, and his grandmother Diana Vreeland, who is one of the most renowned fashion editors of all time. In the 1970’s, Nicky became an assistant photographer to Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, who both worked for his grandmother at Vogue, and were two of the most important American fashion photographers. It was when he was working at Irving Penn’s studio that he became interested in Buddhism, and started to pursue becoming a monk instead of, in his terms, a playboy.
All of this you can discover in the documentary film about him called Monk with a Camera which came out in 2014. It talks about his life and about his deep connection to the camera, which was a bit of a sticky point for him for some time. But I don’t want to ruin the film for you, I’ve watched it several times and it’s quite significant. Both the film profits and the exhibits of his photography go to support his monastery, Rato Monastery, in India. It’s amazing that he has this talent that helps fund the growth of the monastery and feed all the young monks. I am grateful to call him my friend.
Some examples of Nicky’s photography can be seen below.