Varanasi, India: “Beyond”

Joey L. (Lawrence) is a Canadian-born photographer living in Brooklyn, NY. He has travelled extensively in third-world countries, meeting the locals and showing their stories through his portraits.

As part of his latest series Holy Men, Joey L. set out with his friends, assistant Ryan McCarney and filmmaker Cale Glendening, for Varanasi, India to photograph the Aghori, wandering sadhus who have renounced all material possessions in pursuit of spiritual liberation. And so the film Varanasi, India: “Beyond” was born.

Beyond is breathtaking, a feast of colorful characters and vistas. The score by Stephen Keech and Tony Anderson compliments the visuals— a nuanced combination of ambient, upbeat and whimsical melodies.

Varanasi, India: "Beyond”

The film emphasizes that it is the connections between people that matter. The sadhus who are interviewed express their belief that spirituality involves bonding with all living things over material belongings.

Joey, Cale and Ryan’s approach to their trip is informed by a spirit of friendship and collaboration, of engaging their subjects on a personal level by building relationships with them instead of merely photographing them from afar. This in spite of drawbacks such as suffering illness from eating dirty, dung-cooked food offered by an affable sadhu host.

From the perspective of a photographer, the film is a strong reminder that photo trips go beyond pictures. Taking the time to engage our subjects on a personal level enables us to understand their lives and culture in an intimate and authentic way.

  • Check out the “Holy Men” photos over at Joey L’s website.
  • Learn more about filmmaker Cale Glending at
  • Contributor Michael Sullivan is a photographer based in Los Angeles.

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