Making Love with Light: Contemplating Nature with Words and Photographs

John Daido Loori, Author Dharma Communications $44.5 (184p) ISBN 978-1-882795-11-6
As explained in the foreword to this beautiful book, there is an ancient Zen practice of incorporating san, or a short text, within zenga, or Zen paintings traditionally done with ink and brush. The author of the foreword and book is the abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery, a man known in Buddhist circles for adapting modern technologies to ancient purposes. One way Loori does this is through a camera, snapping photos in place of inking zenga. This book presents two introductory essays, ""Sacred Space"" and ""Light,"" then 77 of Loori's color photographs, grouped into two sections, ""River Valley"" and ""Rock,"" each of which opens with its own essay. The essays are finely written and acutely observant about nature, humanity, the sacred. The photos--of rocks, water, vegetation, occasionally of animals alive or dead--are more impressive still, each imparting not only a visually striking image but, carried by the image, a sense of stillness or grace. These are masterful photos, worthy of contemplation. The san accompanying the photos (san on one page, photo on opposing page) work less well. Occasionally, they deepen the experience of the photos, but as often they're more literal and less evocative than the images, sometimes merely descriptive and infrequently overwrought. An extraordinary image of two boulders in water, for instance, is joined by the lines, ""Light as spring blossoms/boulders float suspended in space."" Overall, this is an unusual and spiritually powerful book, handsomely produced, suffused with a genuine and accessible understanding of the miraculous ordinariness of the natural world. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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