Book Review: Serpent in the Wildness
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.
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.
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.
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.