Chronology of the Dharma Heritage Project

The following is a chronology that describes photography begun in 1977 by Don Farber, the formation of the Dharma Heritage Project in 1989, various collaborative projects, books, exhibitions, grants and other highlights from nearly 40 years of photographing and researching Buddhist life, as well as video work done over the last decade, and the evolution of the Project as a nonprofit organization established in 2010.


- Don Farber discovers Chua Vietnam, the first Vietnamese Buddhist temple in the US, and decides to make a book about life at the temple, which was established near downtown Los Angeles in 1975 for the newly arrived refugees.  Nearly every Sunday for ten years, he would go to the temple to photograph, participate in spiritual practices, research about Vietnamese Buddhism, and interview members of the temple.   


- Photographs His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the first time when he visits the Vietnamese Buddhist temple during his first visit to the U.S. This would become the beginning of a photographic study of the Dalai Lama that continues to the present.


- A one man show of the photography from the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple project, is shown at the California Museum of Science and Industry and at the Pacific Asia Museum.  The exhibition is funded by a grant from the California Arts Council.


- Images from the Vietnamese temple project are shown at LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhi-bitions) gallery.


- Farber practices, studies, and photographs at the Zen Center of Los Angeles directed by the Japanese Zen master, Maezumi Roshi.


- Makes first trip to Asia, photographing Buddhist life in Taiwan and Japan.


- Travels to Japan, Taiwan, and China.

- The book, Taking Refuge in LA: Life in a Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, photographs by Don Farber, text by Rick Fields, and introduction by Thich Nhat Hanh, is published by Aperture. A grant from the California Council for the Humanities supports the printing of the book and a traveling exhibition.


- The exhibition, Taking Refuge in L.A., is shown at the Pacific Asia Museum; California State University, Fullerton; The Asia Society, New York; San Jose State University; and Fresno Metropolitan Museum.


- Photographs from Taking Refuge in L.A. are included in a group show at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery.

- Travels to India to photograph the last ten days of the 49-day funeral of the Tibetan Buddhist master, Kalu Rinpoche.

- Serves as official photographer for the visit of the Dalai Lama to Los Angeles when he gives the Kalachakra teachings and initiation over a two-week period.

- Farber establishes the Dharma Heritage Project to photograph Budhist life internationally.  Travels to Japan and finds sponsorship for the Project from the Japan Buddhist Federation, Teikyoku Security Patrols Company, and Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai.


- The Project receives sponsorship from the Eastman Kodak Company (providing film) and A&I Photo Lab (providing film processing), which continues until 1998.

- Farber is sent by the Japan Buddhist Federation to photograph the World Buddhist Federation conference in South Korea and to Lumbini, Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha. He begins extensive photography of Buddhist life in Japan that continues through 1993.

- Photographs included in a group show at MoMA PS1, Queens, New York.


- Has exhibitions at the Pacific Asia Museum and at San Jose State University on Traditional Japanese Buddhist Life with the support from the California Council for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The funding also supports a panel discussion and the publication of a booklet with photographs by Don Farber and text by Francis Cook, Ph.D. describing the various tradi-tional Japanese Buddhist sects.

- Don Farber’s photograph titled Brothers is included in the book More Reflections on the Meaning of Life by the editors of Life magazine.  The photograph appears full page in Life magazine.

- An exhibition titled Thai Buddhist Life is shown at the Pacific Asia Museum, California State University, Fullerton, and Santa Monica College Photography Gallery.  Funding from the Tourism Au-thority of Thailand supports two trips to Thailand and the costs of producing the traveling exhibition.

- Photographs from various Buddhist traditions are included in a one person show at Mokatoff Asian Arts gallery in New York City.

1993 to 1995

- Photographs of Thai Buddhist life are shown at the Pacific Heritage Museum in San Francisco along with examples of traditional Thai art.


- Mr. Farber receives a Fulbright Scholarship to photograph and research Tibetan Buddhist Life in India and Nepal. He is granted rare access to photograph the Dalai Lama during his ten month stay.  He is based in his wife Yeshi’s village, the Tibetan refugee settlement of Bir in Himachal Pradesh.


- A limited edition portfolio of portraits is produced in Latvia titled, When the Light Shines Through: Tibetan Buddhist Masters.


- The book, Visions of Buddhist Life, photographs and text by Don Farber, foreword by Huston Smith, is published by the University of California Press.  The photography represents Buddhist life in Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Nepal, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, India, as well as Vietnamese and other Buddhist traditions in the US. 


- Photographs of Tibetan Buddhist masters are included in the major exhibition of Himalayan art titled Circle of Bliss at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

- The book, Tibetan Buddhist Life, is published by DK Publishing in association with The Tibet Fund.  The text is co-written by Don Farber and Rebecca Novick.  Most of the photography is done by Don Farber, drawing from his work produced with the Fulbright Scholarship and from his portraiture of Tibetan Buddhist masters.  The book is also published in a French editions for Canada and France.


- Begins a project to film interviews with Tibetan Buddhist masters that continues to the present.

- A one-person exhibition with photographs from Mr. Farber’s book, Visions of Buddhist Life, is shown at the Fowler Museum at UCLA.


- A boxed set titled Living Wisdom with His Holiness the Dalai Lama is published by Sounds True. It includes a DVD with more than 400 of Farber’s photographs of the Dalai Lama set to Tibetan music, a CD of the soundtrack, cards with photographs of the Dalai Lama on one side and Buddhist teachings on the back, and a book with an introduction by the Dalai Lama and text by Ven. Geshe Gyaltsen.  Produced by Don Farber and Julie Adler.

- Portraits of Tibetan Buddhist Masters is published by the University of California Press.  The book includes Mr. Farber’s photographs of seventy-six Tibetan masters. With each portrait, there is a quotation and a biography edited and written by Rebecca Novick. The foreword is by Sogyal Rinpoche.  



- The book, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is published by teNeues.  The book includes photography by Don Farber spanning thirty years and forewords by the Dalai Lama and Thupten Jinpa.


- A one person show titled, The Dalai Lama and His People, is shown at Shumei Hall Gallery in Pasadena.

- The Dharma Heritage Foundation is established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for the purpose of supporting the Dharma Heritage Project. 

- The foundation purchases video equipment and filming begins for a documentary film about the 103 year-old Japanese Zen master, Joshu Sasaki Roshi. The filming is carried out at Rinzai ji Zen Center in Los Angeles, Mt. Baldy Zen Center, and Bodhi Manda Zen Center in New Mexico.  Don Farber is director, producer, and cinematographer.  One year later, producer Carole Wilson joins the film project as co-producer along with her husband, filmmaker Michael Henry Wilson, serving as a consultant.


- The exhibition, The Dalai Lama and His People, is shown at the Tibet House Museum in New York  City with support from the foundation.

- Artist Shepard Fairey makes a poster and three paintings based on one of Don Farber’s photographs of the Dalai Lama.


- Photographs and films Tibetan Buddhist life in India with support from the Living History Centre.

- Equipment is donated for the Project, including a new DSLR camera, a computer, and large format printer.


- The foundation funds the digitizing of a 1978 ethnographic film, made by anthropologist David Blundell, Ph.D, about an elder monk in Sri Lanka.


- Joshu Sasaki Roshi passes away at 107 and after extensive filming over four years, the film enters the post-production phase. Twice Academy Award and Emmy Award nominated film editor, Paul Rubell, joins the project and helps coordinate the post-production.