Just this morning I sent off a package containing two book on the American photographer, Minor White to a friend and fellow artist. Minor White’s photographs changed the course of my life. Back in 1989, there was a retrospective of his work at The Museum of Modern Art and the images just blew me away. And the idea that someone no longer on this earth (White died in 1976) could somehow reach out and touch me so deeply with his images simply altered the reality I had created for myself.
My friend had mentioned how he needed to find out more about Minor White after meeting a former student of Minor White working atThe National Gallery of Art as a photographer. Never one to miss an opportunity to spread the ideas of this great man, I offered to send my friend some duplicate copies of books I had in my library. He graciously and enthusiastically accepted.
In the package I included a letter that summed up White’s philosophy and I thought I would share it on this blog.
Enclosed are the books I promised. I hope you get something out of them, not only as a photographer but as an artist in general. Below are a few quotes from Minor White’s writings that sum up what he was all about, artistically
On becoming a photographer:
I asked if I could be a photographer, and [Alfred] Stieglitz said: ”Well, have you ever been in love?” and I said: “Yes,” and he said: “Then you can be a photographer
The camera is first a means of self-discovery and a means of self-growth. The artist has one thing to say—himself.
To see through, not merely with, the eye, to perceive with the inner eye, and by an act of choice to capture the essence of that perception. This is the very core of the creative process.
The essence of the practice of Equivalence:
The secret, the catch, and power lies in being able to use the forms and shapes of objects in front of the camera for their expressive-evocative qualities… the ability to see the visual world as the plastic material for the photographer’s expressive purposes.
..innocence of eye has a quality of its own. It means to see as a child sees, with freshness and acknowledgment of the wonder; it also means to see as an adult sees who has gone full circle and once again sees as a child—with freshness and an even deeper sense of wonder
On the practice of sequence:
A sequence of photographs is like a cinema of stills. The time and space between photographs is filled by the beholder, first of all from himself, then from what he can read in the implications of design, the suggestions springing from treatment, and any symbolism that might grow from within the subject itself.
On viewing photographs (and all art I say):
What you find will be your own. The experience cannot be compared to addition because that implies one right answer and many wrong ones. Instead the experience should be compared to an equation one factor of which is the viewer’s depth of mind. When so treated there are as many right answers as persons who contemplate the picture; and only one wrong answer – no experience.
I will add one additional quote which I think puts things in perspective:
I have discovered camera is both a way of life and not enough to live by.