Whenever Daido [John Daido Loori Roshi] was traipsing around in the mountains, he always had a camera with him. His scientific background in chemistry gave him a strong technical understanding of photographic processes. But it was his training with Minor White that initiated his lifelong exploration of “making love with light.” Gazing at water, seeing the shape of ice, he was always seeking the fresh view, free of conditioned thinking, inspired by love. He wrote, “We are all constantly in the midst of light. We are surrounded, bathed, and nourished by it. This miracle we call light can transform. It can teach, reveal, evoke, and heal. It speaks in many voices. … If we are patient, letting go of thoughts and letting the mind settle down, then the hidden faces rise to the surface, and subtlety and richness return. A shift takes place, resonance appears. This allows for real intimacy with the subject.”
In his 2003 exhibit “Jinzu,” Daido explored this intimacy with nature as “mystical presence.” The term refers to mystical powers said to be accessible to advanced spiritual practitioners. He wanted to go beyond first impressions to see things more deeply, to try to convey the intrinsic nature of the fallen leaf, or rounded stone. When I first saw these photos in the Monastery dining hall, I was stunned into silence. Each decaying lotus leaf was a majestic tapestry of light and form reflecting a unique confluence of conditions. His camera and eye, his way of seeing, had made an invitation, a request to be present with each particular being. I felt drawn into the intimate world of each leaf, sensing the wabi flavor of early autumn, the growing season coming to a close. The dining room disappeared and I entered the world of the insentient, Daido’s beloved dharma playground.
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