Photograph Equivalence Minor White

Minor Martin White (July 9, 1908 – June 24, 1976) was an American photographer, theoretician, critic and educator. He combined an intense interest in how people viewed and understood photographs with a personal vision that was guided by a variety of spiritual and intellectual philosophies. Starting in Oregon in 1937 and continuing until he died in 1976, White made thousands of black-and-white and color photographs of landscapes, people and abstract subject matter, created with both technical mastery and a strong visual sense of light and shadow. He taught many classes, workshops and retreats on photography at the California School of Fine Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, other schools, and in his own home. He lived much of his life as a closeted gay man, afraid to express himself publicly for fear of loss of his teaching jobs, and some of his most compelling images are figure studies of men whom he taught or with whom he had relationships. He helped start and for many years was editor of the photography magazine Aperture. After his death in 1976, White was hailed as one of America's greatest photographers

White was greatly influenced by Stieglitz’s concept of "equivalence," which White interpreted as allowing photographs to represent more than their subject matter. He wrote "when a photograph functions as an Equivalent, the photograph is at once a record of something in front of the camera and simultaneously a spontaneous symbol. (A 'spontaneous symbol' is one which develops automatically to fill the need of the moment. A photograph of the bark of a tree, for example, may suddenly touch off a corresponding feeling of roughness of character within an individual.)"

In his later life he often made photographs of rocks, surf, wood and other natural objects that were isolated from their context, so that they became abstract forms. He intended these to be interpreted by the viewer as something more than what they actually present. According to White, "When a photographer presents us with what to him is an Equivalent, he is telling us in effect, 'I had a feeling about something and here is my metaphor of that feeling.'...What really happened is that he recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state, or place within himself."

In the introduction to his Fourth Sequence (1950), White wrote:
 While rocks were photographed, the subject of the sequence is not rocks; while symbols seem to appear, they are barely pointers to significance. The meaning appears in the mood they raise in the beholder; and the flow of the sequence eddies in the river of his associations as he passes from picture to picture. The rocks are only the objects upon which the significance is spread like sheets on the ground to dry.
Not everyone agreed with or understood White's philosophy. Some of White's abstract images "have an indeterminacy that forestalls any conventional response."One critic wrote "Without a capacity to see in rocks some glimmer of essential form, as Weston did, or in clouds some hint of a universal life force, as Stieglitz did, one cannot understand White's pictures....One gets the impression that White did not develop as an artist in a linear sense so much as he oscillated between conflicting pole.Wikipedia

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