Minor White: A Living Remembrance (Aperture 95 )


I’ve been enjoying the recently released Aperture Magazine Anthology: The Minor White Years, 1952-1976. This isn’t a collection of just Minor White’s writing (though that was the main reason I bought it), but more of a sampling of what editor Peter C. Bunnell felt were the key writings in the journal during that period. But I’ll save my review of the book for later.

While reading the Anthology, I was reminded of an issue of Aperture I’d bought years ago but hadn’t read. Aperture 95, published in 1984, is entitled Minor White: A Living Remembrance, and includes essays by White himself, along with his students and friends, and examines the concept of the “equivalent”, White as photographer, and White as teacher. I’ve found that this issue of Aperture acts as a strong companion to the anthology.

Authors include:

  • Ansel Adams
  • Robert Adams
  • Carl Chiarenza
  • Arthur Freed
  • Arnold Gassan
  • William Giles
  • Barbara Morgan
  • Minor White

Although I initially bought the issue to understand White’s approach to theequivalent more fully, the writing that resonates most deeply with me is a paragraph in Roger Lipsey’s “A Tribute to Minor White.” Lipsey reads White’s image “Bristol, Vermont, 1971” (the same image used as a US postal stamp) as

A classic image of two worlds: below, the horizontal world of time, change, and motion, appearance and disappearance; above, the world of permanence, of light shining from the darkness, of vertical ascent and the holy mountain. Below, a world trafficked in both senses by man; above, a pristine world that invites him. While stating this immemorially old proposition, the photograph remains a landscape vignette of the American Northeast and so is an image of two worlds in this sense also. The physical presence and familiarity of this landscape protect the viewer from an excess of abstraction, from thoughts that start solid with the memory of the two worlds and quickly dissipate into footnotes. Every element of the photograph functions sensuously and, as medieval thinkers put it, supersensually: for example the trees and bushes that partially obscure the boulder add variety as line and texture but also communicate a sense of the mountain’s distance and relative inaccessibility – a thought that Minor expressed in other terms in his introductory discussion of prayer.

The above paragraph sums up White’s role as artist and instructor – not only to make profound images, but to teach the language and syntax of reading images as well.

Aperture 95 is no longer in print, though I see it occasionally on eBay and in used book stores.