Brooklyn-based Canadian photographer Joey L. invites us into his spiritually rich travels to India through his photo series titled Holy Men. As a photographer who is personally driven to document “endangered cultures and traditions” that offer a deeper understanding of the lives and practices of his subjects, the photographer's series manages to present insightful portraits of the intense lives of the Aghori Sadhus in Varanasi, India. Accompanied by filmmaker Cale Glendening and his photo assistant Ryan McCarney, the photographer has captured a culturally rich and enlightening set of images of these men who have dedicated their lives to spiritual liberation.
Joey defines the Aghori as “an intense sect of Sadhu infamous for overcoming all things taboo.” He goes on to explain, ” A sadhu renounces his earthly life, all his worldly attachments, leaves home and family, and takes on the lifestyle of an ascetic. As part of this renunciation, they also leave behind their clothes, food and shelter, and live on the generosity of others.” As one member of the the Aghori says, “I'm a sadhu for social improvement and my way of living is that of a spiritual gypsy.”
Holy Men reflects the spiritual lifestyle devoid of materialism of these highly disciplined nomadic “monks” simply through portraiture. There's a deeper, more metaphysical, sense of life echoed through the Sadhus' portraits that is inexplicably fascinating. Every bit of their being is wrapped in their devotion to their beliefs and spiritual purpose, right down to their dreadlocks–a symbol of their dedication to their faith.
Below, you can watch the 43-minute documentary, titled Beyond, that Glendening filmed from this journey.