A heartfelt moment

One of my first assignments at the Monitor was to photograph Amma, a spiritual leader from India who has been dubbed "the hugging saint." Her charities, international touring, and intense media attention conferred rock-star status on the diminutive woman. I was to photograph her visit to New England; thousands of adherents were expected.

At the hall, a cavernous but dimly lighted place, congregants were meditative as prayers and ritual singing began. I thought my options were limited. But as Amma took her place to receive worshipers, the mood changed. The middle of the hall was cleared. Her many volunteers pulled out costumes and theatrical sets, presenting an elaborate song and dance performance for those at the retreat. Surrounded by her closest advisers, Amma occasionally looked up from her hugging to check out the show. It was in those moments that I saw the image I wanted: She laughed heartily at the performers' antics. The faces in the background gave her a human halo. I snapped several frames. In the end, another photo was published, but I could not get this image out of my head. In news, one must often choose the image that conveys the story best over the favored composition. In this case, I'm glad I had a second chance.

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