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White, Minor (1908-1976)  
 
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Post-War Success

The first post-war exhibition held of White's photography was at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1948. A variety of exhibition venues began to open to White during the 1950s. He directed How to Read a Photograph at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1953 and became Assistant Curator at the George Eastman House, a photography museum in Rochester, New York, during the same year. White served as curator of exhibitions there for four years and also edited Image Magazine.

Among the shows he directed during these years were Camera Consciousness (1954), The Pictorial Image (1955), and Lyrical and Accurate (1956). A large exhibition of his own work, Sequence 13: Return to the Bud, was also presented at Eastman House in 1959.

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Distinguished Teacher

White taught photography part-time at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1955. In 1956 he resigned his position at George Eastman House to become a full-time lecturer in photography at Rochester, a position he held from 1956 to 1964.

During this time White also began to conduct workshops throughout the country, a practice he would continue for the rest of his life. As a teacher White influenced several fine contemporary photographers, including Paul Caponigro, Walter Chappell, Nathan Lyons, and Jerry Uelsmann, among others.

In Rochester White further developed his interests in mysticism and Eastern philosophy and the teachings of Gurdieff. He would later take these ideas into the classroom and use them to teach his students how to clear the mind and become fully present to a photographic subject.

In 1962 White was a founding member of the Society for Photographic Education and three years later he was made visiting professor in the Department of Architecture at MIT. White was promoted to a tenured professorship in 1969 and continued to teach and organize exhibitions there until 1974.

The year he received tenure, White also saw the publication of the first monograph of his photographs, Mirrors, Messages, and Manifestations: Photographs and Writings 1938-1968. The volume accompanied a major traveling exhibition of White's work that originated at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1970, a year in which he was also awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and began the Hotchkiss Workshop in Creative Photography in Connecticut.

White's Last Years

Although he was diagnosed with angina as early as 1966, White lived an extremely active life. While he curated exhibitions and taught at MIT, he also created his own work, conducted workshops, and gave seminars across the country. The pace was grueling and it began to affect his health.

White retired from the faculty of MIT during 1974 in an effort to reduce stress, but was also appointed Senior Lecturer and became a Fellow of the MIT Council of the Arts in 1975. He resigned as editor of Aperture the same year but also saw the first substantial exhibition of his photographs tour Europe.

White loved his work and accepted offers to lecture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, teach some classes in England, and participate in a symposium at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Finally, however, he suffered a heart attack that hospitalized him for several weeks.

But even the heart attack failed to stop his work. When he recovered, he became consulting editor of Parabola Magazine and received an honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from the San Francisco Art Institute.

He continued to work selectively until he died of a second heart attack in Boston on June 24, 1976.

A Closeted Life

Throughout his life White maintained a careful silence about his homosexuality. Painfully conscious of his need to maintain his career, especially his teaching career, which could have been destroyed by a whiff of scandal, he refused to exhibit photographs that were sexually explicit. Even the male nudes that he created but failed to exhibit were portrayed in a way that kept the model's identity in the shadows.

In spite of the psychological and emotional toll such closeting exacted of him, White was able to create art of a very high order. A deeply religious man who made a spiritual journey of his whole life, White made his art an integral part of that journey. One of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, he was also one of the century's greatest teachers of photography.

Ray Anne Lockard

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    Bibliography
   

Buerger, Janet E. "Minor White (1908-1976): The Significance of Formal Quality in His Photographs." Image 19.3 (September 1976): 20-32.

Bunnell, Peter, ed. Minor White: The Eye that Shapes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Art Museum, 1989.

Ellenzweig, Allen. The Homoerotic Photograph: Male Images from Durieu/Delacroix to Mapplethorpe. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992.

Harms, Valerie. "The Teaching Legacy of Minor White." Camera 35 21. 5 (June 1977): 52-53, 64, 66.

Holborn, Mark. Minor White, A Living Remembrance. New York: Aperture, 1984.

Hooven, F. Valentine, III. "White, Minor." Gay Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia. George E. Haggerty, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 947-948.

Pultz, John. "Equivalence, Symbolism, and Minor White's Way into the Language of Photography." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 39.1-2 (1980): 28-39.

Sekula, Alan. "On the Invention of Photographic Meaning." Artforum 13 (January 1975): 36-45.

White, Minor. Minor White: Rites and Passages. New York: Aperture, 1978.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Lockard, Ray Anne  
    Entry Title: White, Minor  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated April 8, 2004  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/white_m.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
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Chicago, IL   60607
 
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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