The monk with a camera

A boy, born into a family of wealth and fashion, chose to lead a simple life but continued his passion for photography.

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Born into a wealthy family and a son of an American diplomat, he is now the first Tibetan monk photographer from the west.

Nicholas Vreeland is the son of an American diplomat and grandson of Diana Vreeland, the legendary editor of Vogue magazine.

Born into a family of fashion, Nicholas grew up seeing the world of fashion and was trained to be an elegant man: suit pockets to be kept clean and placed with white handkerchief, shoes to be shining bright. Who would have thought after several years he would go on to become a Buddhist monk.

Most interesting is that he is the first one among the Tibetan Buddhists from the west.

From the age of 13, Nicholas had a keen interest in photography. He would borrow cameras to practice his skills, which he got from his talented grandmother. At the age of 15 he began assisting a famous photographer.

He was invited to photograph the Indian Tourist Office in the late 1970s, this is when he visited Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's residence and also the headquarters of the Central Tibetan Administration. He took a series of photos of Dalai Lama during this visit.

It was during this trip and due to his closeness to the Dalai Lama that he began to grow an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and finally moved to India in 1984 with the determination to become a monk.

In 2012, the Dalai Lama appointed Nicholas as the abbot of the temple, which was an important moment for the temple as Nicholas was the first westerner to be appointed as an abbot.

Over the past 30 years, Nicholas has been living in India and the U.S. as a Tibetan Buddhist monk but did not completely give up photography. In order to raise funds for the temple, Nicholas has been organizing exhibits for his pictures since 2010. He was also invited to Taiwan in the year 2014.

The documentary "Monk with a camera" is mainly narrated from Nicholas's point of view. It also integrates the views of those key figures of his life and uses a lot of photographic work to depict Nicholas's life.