The documentary Monk with a Camera chronicles the spiritual journey of Nicholas Vreeland, whose grandmother was famed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. Early in his life Nicky was a stylish, well-heeled, privileged boy. He became fascinated by photography in high school and after graduating college became a professional. While traveling the world he photographed the Dalai Lama and became fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism. At the age of 31 Nicky went to India, knowing no Tibetan, where he joined a Tibetan monastery.
The 2014 film recounts his life with interviews of Nicky and of his family, old photos and film of his monastery and trips around the world. Richard Here pops up a lot with commentary. He went from jet setting youth to an abbot of a Tibetan monastery. Much of the film concentrates on his effort to raise money to build a new monastery since the community had grown and was bursting at its seams. Reluctantly, Nicky decides to fund the building by selling his photos in world capitals.
I enjoyed the colorful landscapes and the beautiful photos. Nicky, his mentor and his family were insightful and kept my interest. I do wish the film delved more into the details of Tibetan Buddhism. I was left with questions about the daily life of Tibetan monks. I wondered if Nicky had any “dark nights” of the soul and if so, how’d he overcome them. Unconsciously, I guess I wanted a Buddhist Seven Story Mountain. Still I enjoyed and recommend this documentary.