Book Review: Serpent in the Wildness

Book Review: Serpent in the Wildness

 Texts by Andy Richter. Designed by Bonnie Briant, Kehrer Design. Published by  Kehrer Verlag . 

Texts by Andy Richter. Designed by Bonnie Briant, Kehrer Design. Published by Kehrer Verlag

By Emma Coyle

The vibrant images in Serpent in the Wilderness by Andy Richter are rich in colors and content. In this book, Richter takes his love for yoga and channels it through his photography to capture many well composed scenes showing yoga as practiced in America and in India. Gold and jewel tones guide the reader from one page to the next starting with the cover which is covered in bougainvilleas. 

 3_Meditation on the Yamuna River at Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan. © Andy Richter

3_Meditation on the Yamuna River at Keshi Ghat in Vrindavan. © Andy Richter

One of the best features of Serpent in the Wilderness is the way that Richter includes descriptions of all of the images at the end of the book that detail where the photo was taken and his impressions of the people in the images. Richter’s photos from his trip to India dominate the pages of the book with scarce photos of American yoga. Nonetheless, it shows the way that Americans have adapted and changed the way yoga is practiced and the differences in yoga centric lifestyles. 

 Thousands of yogis practice asana during a early morning class at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, Colorado. Approximately 3,000 attended the sold out event, “Yoga on the Rocks.” © Andy Richter

Thousands of yogis practice asana during a early morning class at Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, Colorado. Approximately 3,000 attended the sold out event, “Yoga on the Rocks.” © Andy Richter

A personal favorite photo from the book is of the yogi, Bhandari Baba, meditating in his cave. The photo takes up a full-two page spread with the figure on the left-hand side and the shape of the cave reaching up towards the right hand corner with a red and gold flag following the same trajectory. It balancing the composition. The photographer doesn’t take the time to explain the differences between yogis and the practice of yoga allowing the reader to instead focus on the peaceful quality of the image. The lack of text explaining the origin or history of the image eliminates distractions. 

 Krishna devotees prostrate during their circumambulation of Govardhan Hill, near Govardhan, India. Moving one stone her body’s length with each prostration (of 108 stones), the devotee in the foreground’s parikrama, or walk around the sacred hill, will require 12 years to complete. Her bhakti, or devo- tion to Krishna, keeps her moving forward. © Andy Richter

Krishna devotees prostrate during their circumambulation of Govardhan Hill, near Govardhan, India. Moving one stone her body’s length with each prostration (of 108 stones), the devotee in the foreground’s parikrama, or walk around the sacred hill, will require 12 years to complete. Her bhakti, or devo- tion to Krishna, keeps her moving forward. © Andy Richter

All the images throughout the book are contemporary and modern ways that yoga is being practiced and while it is uncertain how it shows both the history and future of yoga perhaps it is that ambiguity that makes the book interesting to page through. Richter asserts that “yoga will become tomorrow’s culture” and how can anyone know how tomorrow’s culture will look? People can only make guesses from the way things look now and Serpent in the Wilderness does show yoga now and allows its readers to project into an uncertain future that is grounded in a quickly expanding yoga practice. 

 A young devotee blesses pilgrims along the Govardhan parikrama, where Krishna is believed to have spent much of his youth. © Andy Richter

A young devotee blesses pilgrims along the Govardhan parikrama, where Krishna is believed to have spent much of his youth. © Andy Richter

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