About the Artist
Born a natural seeker and idealist in post-war suburbia, I evolved into a teenage counterculture rebel, protesting the outer world while exploring the inner. Inspired by folks like Emerson, Thoreau, Allen Ginsberg, R.D. Laing, and Alan Watts, I set my hopes on Enlightenment and Liberation. From around age fourteen (mid-sixties), I identified strongly with the core ideals of the Counterculture (personal liberation, radical authenticity, peace and non-violence, social justice, universal love). Like many in my generation, I was fascinated by the notion (and practice) of “consciousness expansion.” Alongside my senior photo in the high school yearbook appears this quote from William Blake (via Aldous Huxley): If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is - infinite.
After my freshman year in college—devoted largely to exploring consciousness and protesting America’s war in Vietnam—I took a permanent leave of absence to become a world-transcending Hindu monk. Over a seventeen-year period (1970-1987), I plumbed the depths of that tradition as a committed ascetic, teacher, and author of introductions to my guru's translations and commentaries on ancient Sanskrit texts - with annual pilgrimages to India. Eventually becoming our organization's de facto ambassador to academia (and to the world of inter-religious dialogue), I entered academia through the back door, presenting research papers at academic conferences - “insider” critiques of my particular Hindu group, later published in various academic books and journals. A series of detailed interviews with scholars of religion, published in book form in 1983 by Grove Press, was well reviewed in the academic press and adopted into many college courses on “new religious movements.”
I bailed from the ashram in 1987, deeply disillusioned with an organization that had gone steeply downhill after the death of the founder in 1977. To paraphrase a wise soul, “Religion begins with mystics and ends with priests and administrators.” I’ve written extensively on the subject, both analytically and personally. [See, for example, India in a Mind’s Eye: Travels and Ruminations of an Ambivalent Pilgrim, available both in electronic and physical form.]
Dropping off Planet Krishna, I landed at Harvard Divinity School where I studied religion comparatively, reflecting on the great spiritual ideas and their embodiments in historical/cultural forms, leading to an M.T.S. (Master of Theological Studies) degree in 1990. Those years were extraordinarily stimulating, both intellectually and personally.
Even before the degree, I found myself beginning to weary of intellectual and metaphysical pursuits. Or, to put it differently, I began hungering for some form of creative expression. Because the Divinity School had accepted me into their masters program with only a freshman year of college behind me, they added a third year onto my two-year course of study to take a variety of liberal arts courses (whichever I chose) in Harvard college. Among those courses was a creative writing class, where I began work on India in a Mind’s Eye (mentioned above). Getting a charge from the writing experience, along with strong encouragement from writer and Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel (with whom I took some courses at Boston University via cross-registration), I began to question academia as a final resting place (in the temporal sense) for my interests and enthusiasms, which were now tending toward the creative and artistic. I contemplated focusing on writing (narrative non-fiction), but felt an inchoate urge toward something less cerebral and more visceral. But what? I had little experience and certainly no virtuosity in any creative field, so my mysterious desire remained an orphan with no place to lay its little head. I admired one particular friend’s magical ability to manipulate materials (paint, clay) into new creations, invented realities, but knew I couldn’t draw even the simplest thing.
Then something strange and unexpected happened. If I may be permitted to mythologize a bit: the Muse of Photography felt my need, took pity, and after discussing the matter with the other muses and obtaining their consent (the Muses of Painting and Drawing affirmed that I had absolutely no talent in their realms), she began to lead me and gradually took charge of my life. Almost overnight, I discovered a love for photography as an expressive medium, along with a talent for it. Though I'd never been aware of having a "good eye,” or any innate visual sophistication, I evolved rather quickly into a serious and skilled maker of monochrome images.
I began with a few introductory courses at a local adult education center, then set up a home darkroom and fell in love with the alchemy of creation, fascinated by the synergy of vision and imagination. I began to explore the history of the medium, discovering kindred souls along the way: seekers of meaning, excavators of the beautiful and the marvelous - photographic artists for whom the medium had served, variously, as a path of self-discovery, a probe into matters of appearance and reality, experiments with and investigations into the nature of light (literally and as metaphor), and a Zen-like discipline of radical receptivity. My inspirations include Josef Sudek, Minor White, Wynn Bullock, Bill Brandt, Edward Weston, André Kertész, Paul Caponigro and Ruth Bernhard.
Though benefitting from looking at the work of these and other camera artists, from early on I was blessed with a healthy instinct to trust my own eyes, to allow my own visual impulses and intuitions to guide me. I increasingly found photography to be a pleasant journey into the intuitive and imaginal realm, and felt no compulsion to subscribe to any particular dogma or cultivate a certain style. Conscious patterns and themes emerged only later, while surveying a growing body of work and noticing how others responded to it. Eventually, when digital print-on-demand technology appeared, I began creating books of my work.
At this point, twenty years into photography (as of 2014), I find myself with a substantial body of work and an ever-expanding delight in art and the quest for Beauty. Beauty—as both archetype and subjective experience—is a sacred thing, deeply and profoundly meaningful, a vital expression of core humanity and spirituality. Because I like to think about things (can’t seem to escape the analytical mind), I've given a huge amount of thought to art and aesthetics, and sometimes cannot resist using language to express my ideas (see "Writings"). In the end, however, the fundamental “meaning” of photography resides in the image itself - the photographic image as a free-standing entity and self-contained world.