In 1991, shortly after completing the requirements for my Master’s in Fine Art Photography at New York University (NYU), I joined a teacher and friend for a Buddhist retreat called Zen Video at a monastery in upstate New York. The first evening of the retreat, Sarah and I joined about 20 other students sitting in a circle on the floor. Pat “Enkyo” O’Hara, a professor at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), instructed us to “be with the camera.” I loved it! We contemplated the technology and the capabilities of the medium before we received meditation instruction, video exercises, and monastic cleaning duties (I was tasked with removing staples from paper that was heading to the recycling center).
In the subsequent years I developed a meditation practice and earned a second master’s degree at ITP. I never joined a particular lineage, but have sat on a zafu in the presence of many teachers. While living in Kenya, for example, a Tibetan Buddhist monk spent a few months teaching our small sangha. Lama Tenzin taught me some techniques that I had only read about. When I moved to California in 2012, I gravitated toward the Pacific Zen Institute (PZI), led by an author and koan teacher called John Tarrant. In December 2015, and again at the end of 2017, I attended a retreat with John in which we read and meditated on the story of the Buddha’s life, as written by John.
When it came time for PZI to create a small book about the life of Siddhartha, The Life of the Buddha [© 2019], I offered to help a small team of practitioners to design and produce it. These images show a few steps along the path from a Microsoft Word document to an InDesign file to polymer plates to digitally printed pages and letterpress printed cover to a numbered edition of 500 books.