Robert Mark Altman, best known for his work as an early staff photographer for the music magazine Rolling Stone, died at his home in San Francisco on September 21, 2021, a month shy of his seventy-seventh birthday. He had been in ill health for some time. Altman became a student of Swami Satchidananda in the late 1960s and received the “Sanskrit Yoga” name, Arjava. He often photographed Sri Swamiji in those early days and for some years after.
In 2009, Arjava was invited by Macy’s to help create a window display for their flagship store in New York City (Herald Square) as a tribute to the 1967 “Summer of Love” in San Francisco, California. The display would feature Arjava’s photos from that time period. He included some photos of Sri Swamiji—including a photo of himself with Swamiji.
Ken Krishna Green was a good friend of Arjava’s and shared this obituary written by a mutual friend, Gaetano Kazuo Maida (executive director of Buddhist Film Foundation/International Buddhist Film Festival, and a founding director of Tricycle):
“Altman’s iconic images of the vibrant rock and counter-culture scene in the San Francisco Bay Area were collected in the 2007 book The Sixties: Photographs, with an introduction by longtime Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres. Many of Altman’s Rolling Stone cover photos were included.
In its starred review Publishers Weekly called it “an impressive social document and a powerful remembrance,” and Altman was “a master at catching his subjects at the moment of emotional overload — whether they be mischief makers, war protestors, or musicians.” Jann Wenner, cofounder and publisher of Rolling Stone, said, ‘Robert Altman’s photography was instrumental in portraying the look and feeling and vitality of the Sixties.’
“His work has been exhibited at Abbey Road Studios in London, The Beat Museum in San Francisco, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, and the Newseum in New York City. His photos have appeared on numerous record album covers, and have been published in dozens of books, magazines and newspapers. His work is part of the permanent collections of The San Francisco Public Library, The Library of Congress in Washington DC, The Smithsonian Institution, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Kodak Rock Photography Collection.
“He once wrote, ‘The 60s were a unique, magical time. There will never be another time quite like it and there shouldn’t be. We were young, idealistic, headstrong, restless, brash, convinced of our righteous path and delighted that we were all together making unforgettable noise… I admit that we had an extended adolescence. It’s almost as if our parents said, ‘Okay, go out and have a good time, but be back by 1974.’”
Just prior to the 2009 Macy’s installation, Arjava sent me this touching remembrance of being a student of Swami Satchidananda:
“Swami Satchidananda was, no, is still, a great part of my life. I first met and studied with him when I was in my early twenties in New York City at the Integral Yoga Institute on 500 West End Avenue. I can never begin to evaluate nor put into words what an immeasurable influence his being added to my life. He was a great teacher; an enlightened master, my friend and a face- making corny jokester to boot.“I remember waiting three whole days to receive my Yoga name at a silent Yoga retreat. I thought he had forgotten me and I became pretty glum. Then, just before he was leaving he pulled me in his arms and held me and held me, and then brightly said: ‘You are Arjava. It means “He who has everything.” I replied, ‘I give it all back to you Swamiji.” Then he replied, ‘Good! Now you are one of my agents’— a role I have always accepted gladly.”
We offer our loving prayers that our spiritual brother will eternally rest in the arms of his Guru and send our wishes of comforting to all who knew and loved Arjava. Om Shanti. ~Prem Anjali, Editor, Integral Yoga Magazine