“The Dalai Lama was an amazing session. He was speaking and holding a prayer session at a convention center in Washington, and I’d gotten the assignment to photograph him. We were given certain requirements of what to do and what not to do, and we only had 10 minutes: He would come into the session with a group of monks that travel with him and take care of him, and I was told we couldn’t use flash, we had to use available light or continuous light; I was not to ask him to take his watch or glasses off; he did not particularly want to have a posed portrait; and I was not to shake his hand.
“The day before, we had been in New York setting up a pretty focused situation for him to pose in. I knew that I wanted to shoot 4x5 in continuous light, so it was going to be a fairly posed picture. I knew that would be the moment.
“I came in and the first thing he did was he reached out to shake my hand, so already I was like, ‘Oh, okay, the guy does shake hands—His Holiness does shake hands.’ I started to do one particular situation and then the next, which was the portrait we used for the issue, and also the show and the book. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind removing his glasses and his watch, which he did, and he sat for the somewhat posed portrait. The end of the story is I had a bunch of very upset monks with me, but we got a beautiful photograph of the Dalai Lama.
“When I look back at the picture, my idea of removing his glasses and his watch was so that we could really show the beauty and the depth of his eyes, which are almost like black marbles. He is the Dalai Lama so there’s a very euphoric and peaceful sense about him. He was wearing this 13th-century Malas, passed on to him, and I just loved seeing his eyes and the blackness of the beads and how there was a real quality of depth and spirituality to it, and less about modern jewelry and glasses.”