Monk with A Camera

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

It’s rare that a Western man of means would leave behind a pampered life to become a Buddhist monk in India. “Monk with a Camera” chronicles the adult life of Nicholas “Nicky” Vreeland, who, like Siddhartha (Buddha), renounces a life of material pleasures to pursue deeper meaning through spiritual seeking.

This film doesn’t have any bells and whistles in terms of production value and at times feels so basic that a second- or third- year film student could have been behind the camera. However, the editing and Vreeland’s narration are done with a respect and understanding of his work and ideals – something that a young hired hand could not likely contribute to a passion project.

Vreeland struggles with his “addiction” to photography. For any artist this is an interesting concept, as the pursuit of new creations can fuel the ego, and for some, becomes an obsession. There are many musings on the philosophy of non-attachment and one of the most interesting was Vreeland’s decision to shave his head and how one’s hairstyle is so intertwined with self-image. I was reminded of “The Matrix,” when Neo regains his hair for the first time after being unplugged from the matrix. Morpheus shows him the “Construct” training program and explains that Neo’s physical appearance is “residual self-image.”

Sadly, the film may not captivate you unless you’re a student of Buddhism, fine art photography, or both. If you have reverence for the subject matter, you’ll find little gifts within that make the documentary worthwhile.

– Bayard Lewis


Bayard Lewis is a professional wedding and documentary videographer based in Bozeman. He completed his Photography and Film degree at Montana State University in 2009. He may be reached at bayard@montanafilmmaker.com.

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