White, Minor

born July 9, 1908, Minneapolis, Minn., U.S
died June 24, 1976, Cambridge, Mass.

U.S. photographer and editor.

He began to photograph seriously in 1938 when he went to work for the Works Progress Administration. In 1946 he studied with Edward Weston and Alfred Stieglitz before moving to San Francisco, where he worked closely with Ansel Adams. He succeeded Adams as head of the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts and later taught at MIT. He founded and edited (1952–76) the photography magazine Aperture and also edited Image (1953–57). His efforts to extend photography's range of expression made him one of the century's most influential photographers.

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▪ American photographer
born July 9, 1908, Minneapolis, Minn., U.S.
died June 24, 1976, Cambridge, Mass.

      American photographer and editor, whose efforts to extend photography's range of expression made him one of the most influential creative photographers of the mid-20th century.

      White took up photography while very young but set it aside for a number of years to study botany and, later, poetry. He began to photograph seriously in 1937. His early years as a photographer were spent working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many WPA photographers were chiefly concerned with documentation. White, however, preferred a more personal approach.

      In 1945 his photographic style was given its definitive form by study with Edward Weston (Weston, Edward) and Alfred Stieglitz (Stieglitz, Alfred). From Weston, White learned the value of realism and tonal beauty in photographic prints, and from Stieglitz he learned the expressive potential of the sequence (a group of photographs presented as a unit) and the equivalent (a photographic image viewed as a visual metaphor). Both in his photographs and in his writing, White became the foremost exponent of the sequence and the equivalent.

      In 1946 White moved to San Francisco, where he worked closely with the photographer Ansel Adams (Adams, Ansel). Adams' zone system, a method of visualizing how the scene or object to be photographed will appear in the final print, formed the third major influence on White's work. The next year he succeeded Adams as director of the photography department of the California School of Fine Arts. He was editor of the photography magazine Aperture, which he and others founded in 1952, and Image, which he edited from 1953 to 1957.

      White was a meticulous technician who was scrupulously faithful in his work to the tones and textures of nature. Nevertheless, he was one of the leading abstract photographers of the mid-20th century, often giving mystical interpretations to his photographs. In 1965 he became professor of creative photography at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Among his best-known books are two collections, Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations (1969) and Minor White: Rites and Passages (1978), with a biographical essay by James Baker Hall.

Additional Reading
Peter C. Bunnell, Minor White: The Eye That Shapes (1989).

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Universalium. 2010.

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