Journal 1971-1974

· Essays, Teachings · ,


Editor’s Note: The following are entries from a journal Daido Roshi kept shortly after attending a photography workshop led by Minor White at the Hotchkiss School, prior to his involvement in Zen. The Images are roughly from this period, too.


The last record was concluded and this one started because of the transitions that took place during the 1971 Minor White Hotchkiss Workshop. I shall attempt to record those things that are remembered from the workshop and identify them as such. Other information or records will be dated at the time they were recorded.

Learning how to turn the conscious thinking mind off and let the inner mind, the feelings, work free and open seems to be one of the major keys to heightened awareness.

—May 28, 1971


I have begun to realize that many of the things that I learned at Hotchkiss were intuitive realizations that have been unfolding for me over the past 2 years. Indeed, Heightened Awareness has occurred to me sporadically as long ago as 1966 (boys on the beach.) I feel the need to examine old proof sheets again in light of what I have learned.

—June 29, 1971


One of the most fascinating discoveries made at Hotchkiss was that of movement as was dealt with by Minor in his Images; they were almost surreal. Watching and talking with John B. and Shirley P. opened some new thoughts to me which vaguely center around movement energy (potential and kinetic) in still Images. This has not been dealt with in depth by any photographer known to me. Minor has worked some with movement but not energy.

Energy in a still photo creates excitement if the potential is apparent to the viewer (a rock balanced on a point) etc. I plan to spend the next half year to year working with Images of these forces. John and Shirley will form the core of my creative audience and provide the feedback needed. At first I will limit myself to visual exercises and then later attempt to incorporate what I find into more complex Images.

—June 29, 1971


The busy July 4th weekend was good— I’ve learned many new things.

It was difficult working on the beaches of Long Island, difficult to achieve a state of Heightened Awareness because of my negative feelings for the place. It represents to me both a rape of nature and of humanity. All of nature has been manicured beyond belief. The huge numbers of people have made things of natural beauty almost nonexistent.

Returning to the Neversink Valley was different, just being back put me in a state of Heightened Awareness. The afternoon was spent photographing at Katz Point. The day was beautiful. I am happy with my results. Two good negs were brought back from L. I. Not much for two full days of trying.

I have come to realize that where I live, how I live and with whom I live will determine the kind of Images I make. And I have Joan.

—July 5, 1971


The beginnings of a sadhana. The last three weeks in July 1971.

I am very happy with the work I am doing now. But I am beginning to feel the need of breaking out of this “thing” I am now doing. I don’t seem to be able to verbalize as yet what it is I am doing and where it is I want to go. Perhaps it’s better this way, it can always be rationalized later.

I must continue to allow the “inner self” or “inner mind” to lead and let happen what may.

—July 9, 1971


Today after processing new work of the past two weeks I began to realize that I am becoming a photographer, the process seems to have begun. The next two years should prove to be very exciting.

—July 14, 1971


I have learned to be quiet with myself, and thus have discovered camera. Camera has shown me light making love, from this I learned that I no longer need to “take” pic- tures for I now know how to make Images. My Images have opened my inner self and thus I find my Images are becoming spirit.

Now I wish to discover how to make my Images disappear.

I am seeking Imageless Images.

—July 14, 1971


WIN15_Journal_2Married today very happy—great day— very stoned—on the way to Neil’s and Lucy’s house in a very excited state of Heightened Awareness (both of us). We at the same instant in time saw an image that resonated with both of us simultaneously and in the same way. It felt the way we felt. I stopped the car to make a photograph Joan asked why we couldn’t come back later or tomorrow.

I began to realize this building and landscape resonating with two people NOW because of a million nuances in light, haze, angle, sky, land, etc. Now was that instant in time when our energy as one and the energy of this image was the same thing the same quality (wavelength?) the only difference was quantitative, if that.

The energy exchange began—Joan to me to image to me to Joan, etc. I began shooting Joan/John; the energy was not mine alone. The Images I have on silver belong to John and Joan. The image is a wedding portrait.

—July 17, 1971


Several people looking at my Images today insisted that the “new” imagery is a return to where I was seven years ago when first beginning. It seems that they may be right, there was a lot of resonance then.

When I became unhappy my Images suffered, now that I am again happy my Images are happy. As Minor has said, “your Images become what you are.” So fix yourself and thereby your Images.

—July 21, 1971


I am still being taught new things everyday by the energies of Hotchkiss. I have come to accept this now, indeed, I look forward to it each day. And it’s new! Not just a recalling of things that were communicated while photographing there.

—August 1, 1971


What I am about to record seems at first to be the product of ego but it is very real and has been with me for some time now. I feel I am the doorway to the discovery of something very unique and exciting—for me. A new truth or reality, if you will, that has not spoken to anyone else as yet.

It is not an intellectual feeling, it seems to emanate from inside—the subconscious. I feel that it will take many years to take shape and fully develop—ten years? That seems right. It is exciting but also frightening. There is nothing I can do to hurry it. Time and waiting for it to occur is all it seems I can do. It seems it will appear through my photography. The Imageless Image? I think not— beyond this? I don’t know. Perhaps it is better not to try to rationalize it but to sit quiet with my self and wait for it to evolve.

—August 1, 1971


My Images are an act of discovery not creation. Much the same kind of creativity as I used in science.

The subjects of my Images no longer make the picture. The viewer makes the picture by the combination of his inner self and my image.

I find that when the object in an image is identifiable the viewer just consults his catalog of feelings and makes an association with his memory. But when the image is not recognizable the viewer must reach into his subconscious for associations, or in some beautiful moments he must create new feelings never before experienced—this is the ultimate interaction that an image can initiate.

It seems it would be this kind of image that could disappear.

—August 1, 1971



I’m photographing things for what they are, the subject makes the image. I’m photographing things for what else they are, the what-else-ness makes the image.

But if things identifiable are not part of memories or experiences, we will either reject them outright and refuse to deal with them. Or we will begin to search in places other than memory or the rational mind for understanding.

Is-ness and else-ness direct themselves to the rational thinking mind.

Nothingness speaks to the spirit.

—August 9, 1971



After making the last entry I picked up the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu and found the following:

Look at it but you cannot see it!
It’s name is formless
Listen to it but you cannot hear it!
It’s name is soundless.
Grasp it but you cannot get it!
It’s name is incorporeal.
These three attributes are unfathomable,
therefore they fuse into one.

Its upper side is not bright.
Its underside not dim.
Continually the unnameable moves on
Until it returns beyond the realm of thought
We call it the formless form, the imageless image
We call it the undefinable and unimaginable

Confront it and you do not see its trace
Follow it and you do not see its back
yet, equipped with this timeless Tao,
you can harness present realities.

To know the origins is the initiation into the Tao.

—August 9, 1971


These are times I shall always want to remember—the little house, soft music play- ing, with the insects and night sounds of the woods—cool summer evening, incense, candle light, Joan near—I read, study, play with my Images and thoughts. How are the kids?

—August 22, 1971


The Voice of the Inner Eye is first an acci- dental discovery, a whisper that can easily be missed entirely unless one listens deeply and quietly with the entire organism. After a time it becomes a shout, a full symphony and one begins to wonder why it was never before heard. —September 5, 1971


Today I photographed a feeling that I did not understand for which I received a gift of a place I’ve never been. —September 6, 1971


It’s impossible for me to describe or record my method of working, for when I attempt to observe it, it ceases to operate. When I attempt the dualism of observer and participant, the Images I make lack reso- nance. When resonance is strongest and the image the most meaningful, I am not aware of what has happened.

—September 7, 1971


Much reading, thinking and experiment- ing has gone on since Hotchkiss—I have sought many directions—yoga, Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, occult mysticism—it seems like a year since June. Zen—all lightly touched.

By far—beyond any doubt the strongest pull seems to come from Zen—from the Oriental philosophies and artists.

Chinese calligraphy is fascinating. I have photographed many from nature but do not understand them yet. Some resemblance to ancient Chinese.

The greatest energy source is still Minor—his book, poetry, Images, letters. I am still photographing out of his energy— his inner landscape.

—October 12, 1971


It is possible to visit the fourth level of consciousness under the guidance of an enlightened teacher such as Minor, then later it becomes possible to make such visits alone. But the problem for me seems to be to teach from (while in) this fourth state of consciousness—enlightened teachings do this. I can at times photograph out of this state, but this is personal, alone, not the teaching.

—December 3, 1971


To repay the “gifts” received I teach what I can to others.

—December 19, 1971


A day of silence (today) brought together many of these scattered realizations. The journey still has a very long way to go. Ending this day of silence. It was beautiful. I will be back again many times in my life. I think I am an atheist who learns of God. I can’t explain it yet.

—December 27, 1971



I think the searching is over now, for awhile. There seems to be a path to follow. What’s needed now is time to work and patience to wait.

—April 19, 1972


At this moment in time I really have no questions. I understand. I am not where I want to be but I know the path to take, time is what I need. I will continue to make mistakes, go astray, but at this moment I understand. If tomorrow I am confused it doesn’t matter because now at this second I understand.

—April 25, 1972


The things that are happening to me at this workshop fill me with awe and humble me. The gifts I am receiving fill me to overflow- ing, I love this life and I love these people, my people, the world, with a love I have never felt before.

Words cannot describe the pure beauty of Minor; he is almost a Christ figure to me and at the same time a friend, a part of myself.

I have now experienced from him directly what in the past I only experienced from his Images and poetry. He is truly the greatest teacher I have ever known. I thank the forces that have brought us together.

The gifts I receive I will share with all who will accept—for as long as there is the breath of life in me.

—June 19, 1972


Two days later, slightly disillusioned to discover Minor was as human as myself with as many faults. I was ready to let go. There was a sense of completion of the teacher-student relationship. I felt ready to go into a new direction. There was also a very strong need to do this.

—July 10, 1972


I want to make portraits of the beautiful things that I see, I want to make Images that sing to other people. “Manhole cover” is a beautiful thing, it sings. It’s not a mandala, it’s just a beautiful thing. Everything is a beautiful thing when “seen.”

—October 12, 1973



At Delaware river, near Skinner’s Falls, photographed graffiti along Hawk’s Nest in color, negs and transparencies. My feelings, my questions from inside, it was honest and very powerful, I hope it’s on film. I hope I saw well.

Come here to end this book, it sort of started here. Big changes are beginning to occur, where they are leading I don’t know, I am very frightened, but I think I’m going to follow where it leads. It seems like it’s the only thing I can do.

—April 7, 1974

Again changes, new directions. Weekend at Ananda was very important. Albany was horrible, a world of concrete. Everything and everyone at the photography conference seemed so irrelevant to my existence that all I could do was run as fast as I could to get away from it.

The drive home got better the further from Albany I went. The dilemma of “should I go to Ananda or not” was very difficult. I decided to do what I really wanted and needed until some outside force indicated otherwise. There was no real debate, it was just me versus me.

I was greeted by a large bald eagle when I arrived. He was fishing the lake. I walked to the shore and sat down to watch. I was reminded of Don Juan and the “affirmations of nature.”

The giant bird was beautiful and I was enthralled. It was the first the time I had ever seen one so close (about 50-100 yards.) It was riding the air currents and circling, looking for a fish, then suddenly it dropped like a stone from about 300 feet up and hit the water with a splash. Almost as fast as it hit, it was air born, gradually working up altitude as it flew by with a large struggling fish reflecting sunlight, like some kind of gem in his claws.

By the time he had covered the length of the lake, he was high enough to clear the tree tops before he disappeared over some distant hills. He made an eagle noise that said “welcome” to me.

I was sure I should stay—I soon found Joan and she said welcome. Soon everyone I met said welcome—the trees, the lake, the Anandas, the children. It was a fine weekend.

Things very rapidly began falling into place; all the old feelings began to return. The still point was contacted again, very strongly this time. I hope I can hang onto it this time.

My work is clear to me now; the only question is do I have the power I need to carry it out? I feel I need a teacher. But I have not felt the right energy from anyone yet. I continue to wait.

The beginnings of my spiritual teaching must begin here with my family—if I can’t find the power to do it here I shall never find it to work with others.

Joan has gathered the wood and the kindling and put the match to this spiritual fire that burns within me. I must now teach her to be warmed by it, to allow it to light her way. It is the most difficult task I have every faced. But it is clear that unless this happens, the work I must do will never begin.

I must learn to develop these forces that I feel inside and learn to use them to teach with. I must learn to teach with Images— to communicate to others these things of the spirit that can’t be communicated with words. I must find a place to work from. Image Space does not seem to be the place at this time. At least the way it’s set up at this time cannot continue for very long.

Changes in where we work and live and how I work and live are due very soon.

Photography, spiritual work and teaching it seems must all be part of this new direction. Where, who and when, have not been given to me yet. I continue to wait.

That is the way it all seems at this point in time. The next few years should be exciting.

—April 23, 1974

From Zen Mountain Monastery archives. Copyright © 2015 Dharma Communications.

NextThe Gift of Monasticism