Minor White's prestigious photographic career had a major impact on the development of photography in post war America. White believed in the spiritual qualities of photography; oriental philosophy, Zen, Gestalt psychology and the work of G. I. Gurdjieff were all to be important influences on his life and work. He spent much of his life promoting the work of others and, most importantly, advancing the notion of photography as art. White believed that photography should be akin to poetry: intensely personal and condensed moments of consequence.
White graduated with a degree in botany from the University of Minnesota in 1933 and became an active member of the Oregon Camera Club. His first solo exhibition was held at the Portland Art Museum in 1942. After being discharged from the United States Army Intelligence Corps in 1945 White moved to New York City where he studied aesthetics at Columbia University. During this time he worked for Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, met Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston and Paul Strand and worked as a photographer for the Museum of Modern Art. In 1946 he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts which was supervised by Ansel Adams.
In 1952, White, Adams, Dorothea Lange, the Newhalls, Barbara Morgan and others established the influential 'Aperture' quarterly, which he edited. After organising the exhibition 'How to Read a Photograph' at the San Francisco Museum of Art, White began work as a curator at George Eastman House in Rochester where he remained for four years, curating exhibitions and editing 'Image Magazine'. In 1956 he began work at the Rochester Institute of Technology and started the significant and influential workshops which he would continue for the rest of his life. The Philadelphia Museum of Art organised a major solo traveling show of his work in 1970 and in the same year he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship.
'Lobos' and 'Untitled (Tim Asch at Lobos)' are very good examples of White's style, although the artist did prefer to group his work into sequences, believing in the overall impression of many rather than the meaning produced by a single image. Personal observation was his trademark which means that works often include people who were close to him, places he had visited or moments that had left an indelible mark upon his emotions. Another distinctive element was his cropping technique. 'Untitled (Tim Asch at Lobos)', for example, includes an unusually angled shot of Tim Asch's feet. The image 'Lobos' reveals White's ability to abstract the literal and describe nature in visual terms.
gelatin silver photograph, vintage
9.6 x 11.7 cm image/sheet; 18.5 x 21.1 cm card
Signature & date
Signed l.r. card, pencil "Minor White". Dated l.l. card, pencil "1951...".
Gift of Patsy Asch 2004
Not on display
Reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum. © Trustees of Princeton University.