Tag Archives: Alec Soth

Henry Wessel

The Grain of the Present

Note: This originally posted on NJWV.

LaToya Ruby Frazier
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Robert Adams
Robert Adams
Robert Adams
Robert Adams
Lee Friedlander
Lee Friedlander
Henry Wessel
Henry Wessel
Vanessa Winship
Vanessa Winship

Took my second trip to Pier 24, this time to see their Grain of the Present exhibition. Pier 24’s shows are so expansive and generous with the amount of material from each artist that I find it difficult to write about the show in general. Too many directions to go and things to think about.

That said, most of the photographs on display do reflect a sublime sense of photography as a reactive, perceptive medium. Rather than being previsualized images, we see the products of the photographer recognizing something they liked and finding a way to get the shot before the moment passed. At their best, the resulting photos both show each photographer’s unique point of view and help us learn more perceptive ways of seeing the world around us.

The highlights especially deserve to get mentioned individually. I’m just going to go in alphabetical order.

For Robert Adams they had a selection of his Prairie shots up. Adams is in this show because of his involvement in New Topographics but instead of looking at any New West of suburbs and development, we got to see effectively pre-suburban living. Same eye but a very different feel. Time’s stopped. Hope remains. There’s something elegiac because we can sense the decline coming.

Lewis Baltz meanwhile continues being arguably my favorite photographer. I’ve never seen all of Candlestick Point before and I’ve very glad I got a chance to do so here. Being able to explore the photos in a grid is a wonderful way to explore the work and feel my way around both the location and the images. There’s so much sublime subtle stuff going on with the light and the shadows and reflections.

LaToya Ruby Frazier is probably the highlight of the show. I love the mix of scales and subject matter. Her family photos are small and intimate and feel incredibly personal. Yet at the same time I’m reminded of watching my grandparents age. Her cityscapes are completely different. Large, detailed, inquisitive, showing aging buildings and disappearing industries. And they work perfectly with the family images. The big photos need to be big. The small ones need to be small. But in all cases the images are keenly seen and personal.

Lee Friedlander’s Little Screens are hilarious. They’re very much of their time in terms of the hardware, furniture, and tv shows shown. But they’re also entirely suggestive of our screen addictions today. It’s one of those simple ideas which could come off as either a trite gimmick or heavy-handed snark but instead Friedlander’s treatment reveals the humor of how we just shove the TV wherever it fits in a room yet it still becomes the focal point.

I enjoyed Ed Panar’s work and how he keeps returning to the same subjects. While many of the galleries emphasize the idea of being receptive to images when you’re out and about, much of Panar’s work can be seen as recognizing that something as imminently familiar as the view from your front porch or your daily walk is also always changing and will occasionally present itself as a photo worth taking.

Henry Wessel is also always great and I was very excited to see his photo of Richmond again. It was one of my favorite things in the new SFMOMA yet I couldn’t find an image of it anywhere online. I’m glad I got a second chance. Wessel, probably more than any other photographer in this show, fits the description of someone who’s out there just finding photographs with his camera. I know there’s more to it than that but there’s a certain casual grace in his shots that I both admire and envy.

He’s neither super-precise nor is he consciously rough. The light and tones are always this perfect combination of having a slight low-contrast glow while still popping crisply off the page. And his sense California reminds me of home—especially now that I live in New Jersey.

And Vanessa Winship. I like her very much. Her work, especially her portraits, also has a certain grace about it. It’s much more precise than Wessel but there’s a gentleness in the images where I don’t feel like I’m being prompted to gawk at anyone.

I didn’t include Diane Arbus or Stephen Shore in the highlights because, as great as their work is to see in-person, I’m already very familiar with it. While all the older photographers in the show were selected because of their association with New Topographics or New Documents, only Arbus’s and Shore’s work has a massive overlap with the images displayed in those two exhibitions.

That said, Arbus is a nice example of how being receptive to a photograph doesn’t mean grabbing a snapshot and moving on. Arbus’s portraits are keenly seen in terms of how she chooses her subject. That the resulting images are part of an impromptu portrait session doesn’t diminish their spontaneity.

What didn’t fit the Theme

Bernd and Hilla Becher
Bernd and Hilla Becher

Each photographer draws inspiration from the ordinary moments of life, often seeing what others overlook—and showing us if you look closely, you can find beauty in the smallest aspects of your surroundings.

Some of the photos on display though just didn’t fit the concept of the show for me. Some may ask us to look closely and see what other people may not see. But they’re not really ordinary moments. Others are indeed ordinary moments but do not show us anything novel. Note, this doesn’t mean that I think these photos are bad, just that, within the context of this show, I wasn’t feeling it.

First, Bernd and Hilla Becher. I love them and their typologies and can sit in a room full of those photo grids for hours. But there’s no sense of moment at all in the photos.

Nicholas Nixon’s Brown Sisters is sort of similar. It’s a project I adore and am already steeling myself for when it devastates me—it’s guaranteed to eventually devastate me. And it does capture an ordinary moment. We all take family photos and can relate to the truths within this project. But this particular project has always been clearly much more than a mere family photo in both the repetition and the collaboration between all five people involved in its production that it feels out of place among the rest of the projects on display.

I feel a bit bad putting Awoiska van der Molen’s work here but I just never got the sense of moment at all from it. Her photos are nice enough and, in a different space with a different context,* may have moved me. But in this space, they felt like a more academic exercise amidst photographers who were working on a much more intuitive level.

*The Pier 24 no context thing may also have served her work particularly badly since her titles and descriptions are just as vague.

And Garry Winogrand’s Women are Beautiful was the exact wrong photo series to choose. Yeesh. I’ve tried to rationalize my feelings about it in the past but I also don’t think I’ve ever been subjected to the entire set. Caille Millner is right. It’s creepy and intrusive as all hell. Yes the ice cream woman is a great photo. As is the LaGuardia bar photo. As are a few others. But the rest? Good lord. For most of those photos there are literally only two reasons why he triggered the shutter. And they’re usually braless.

To include those in an exhibition of “see what others overlook” is either hilariously tone deaf or an ironic joke doomed to fail due to Pier 24’s lack of context. Winogrand deserves better than that. I would’ve been filled with joy had it been The Animals which got selected.

On Print Sizes

Eamonn Doyle
Eamonn Doyle

The first room of this exhibition included a sample from every photographer in the show. It was immediately apparent who the new photographers were compared to the old ones. If it’s printed huge? New photographer. If it’s a nice small size? Old photographer. New photography is hug both because new art is huge and because digital technology allows for photography to be printed huge.

I don’t like this tendency and feel like it frequently gets in the way of the photos. It’s probably no surprise that the two new photographers whose work I really liked had a mix of small and larger prints which gave me the impression that they’d really considered the optimal size for each image.

Alec Soth’s Niagara is a series I’m familiar with but which I’ve never seen in person. I like it better as a book. The giant wall-size photos of the falls and the hotels work ok. Still too large but the geometry of the hotel architecture gets abstracted nicely at that scale. The portraits though are kind of monstrous. I find myself wondering if the sitters realized their nudes would be larger than life and if Soth intended for us to gawk at them. It’s not an empathetic scale.

Eamonn Doyle’s i suffers similarly in that it feels both intrusive and, rather than inviting us to look closely, enlarges everything to the point where subtlety gets lost. I was dubious as it was about whether his cleverness was enough to sustain a book. It definitely doesn’t scale to giant-size images. Sometimes a clever idea only works at a small scale. I can see these working fine arranged as small prints on a single wall the way that Winogrand, Friedlander, and Baltz were displayed.

And holy moly Women Are Beautiful would be an order of magnitude creepier if it were printed at modern sizes.

Other Comments

A few random comments and observations which don’t fit with the rest of this post—many of which refer to specific things I’ve not seen before.

While the lack of context information at Pier 24 doesn’t bother me too much, I do find myself being dismayed by the absence of any process information too. I think it’s important to know what kinds of prints we’re looking at as the distinct photographic printing processes all result in different kinds of objects.

Henry Wessel
Henry Wessel

The grid of color Wessel photos! Not something I every imagined and definitely not my mental conception of his work. I was amazed that they kind of amazingly had the same light and contrast as his black and white photos do. How does he do that?

Bernd and Hilla Becher
Bernd and Hilla Becher

I have never seen non-typology wide Becher photos before either. I like that they still include typologies in the frame. Also, looking at their grid of spherical tanks makes me want to shoot a typology of soccer balls for all the different patch tiling.

Diane Arbus
Diane Arbus

San Francisco is full of “Summer of Love” celebrations right now. That Arbus’s Boy with Straw Hat is ALSO from 1967 is a bit of a coincidence but also felt like a wry joke at how it feels like the summer of 1967 has become a myth about peace love and happiness reigning unencumbered by war or racial inequality.

And back to Baltz’s Candlestick Point. As much as I enjoyed the entire set I also couldn’t help shaking the feeling that I must’ve parked in a few of these locations. Candlestick’s overflow lots were dirt and occupied a lot of the land that Baltz was photographing. Many of the images felt familiar to me as places which I walked through before and after Giants games with that oddly hot and direct mid-day sun or the brutal cold wind which whipped up in the afternoon.

Photoland shibboleths

Inspired by Lazenby.

Name Pronunciation
Ansel Adams Actually I prefer Robert
Diane Arbus dee-ON
Eugène Atget ah-JAY
Rineke Dijkstra DIKE-struh
Robert Doisneau row-bear dwa-no
Peter Lik I’ve never heard of him
Philip-Lorca diCorcia Just get the hyphens and capitalization correct
Lázló Moholy-Nagy mo-ho-li naj
Edward Ruscha roo-SHAY
Alec Soth rhymes with both
Alec Soth. Menlo Park, CA. 2013. Facebook main campus.

LBM Dispatch 4: Three Valleys

Note: This was originally posted on NJWV and references SFMOMA On the Go’s Project Los Altos which featured just the Silicon Valley photos. I saw that show last December and ordered LBM Dispatch 4 as both a catalog of my visit and for the additional context of Three Valleys instead of just Silicon Valley.

Alec Soth. Menlo Park, CA. 2013. Facebook main campus.
Menlo Park, Facebook main campus.
Alec Soth. Silicon Valley, CA. 2013.
Silicon Valley.
Alec Soth. San Joaquin Valley, CA. 2013. Woodville Farm Labor Camp.
San Joaquin Valley. Woodville Farm Labor Camp.
Alec Soth. Ione, CA. 2013. Rancho Secho Nuclear Plant.
Ione. Rancho Secho Nuclear Plant.
Alec Soth. Death Valley, CA. 2013
Death Valley.
Alec Soth. Death Valley, CA. 2013
Death Valley.

After seeing Alec Soth’s photos of Silicon Valley, I wanted to see them in his Three Valleys series to see how my perception of them changed. My reaction to the Silicon Valley photos was very personal and while I appreciated what Soth was doing, I felt that it was an inadequate portrait of my home. I like them immensely more in their Three Valleys context.

My main issue with the Silicon Valley photos involved the lack of area history in the photos.

I found myself thinking a lot about who else should have been chosen. The lack of Intel or Cisco for example are pretty striking considering what all the tech companies actually run on. I also thought about how the set would have looked different if it had been shot in 2000. Or 1990. Or 1980. Silicon Valley has been around a long time now but people only think of the current version as a new thing.

I’ve spent the last few weeks driving past the construction site for the gleaming new Apple campus, the first phase of which is to tear down what used to be the main HP campus. The constant churning of industrial park construction/destruction as industries come and go is completely absent from the photos. As is the similar churning of strip malls and suburban housing.

Alec Soth’s Silicon Valley

This is no longer an issue when the San Joaquin Valley and Death Valley photos are included. What was a portrait of Silicon Valley has become more about California and its mythos as the promised land and how closely together success & failure and new & old and nature & technology live together. Instead of being about the details of one industry, it’s become about the ways different industries come and go and how people are left behind when the industry moves on.

As someone who visits the Central Valley regularly from the Bay Area, I’m very familiar with the time-warp nature of traveling from Silicon Valley to the San Joaquin Valley. Everything is different. Life moves at a different pace. Driving huge distances becomes normal. Technology even seems somewhat marooned in the past and any cutting edge technology is like magic.*

*For the first few years when Priuses were backordered in the Bay Area, you could drive them off the lots in Fresno.

Comparing the two valleys really shows the two sides of the California dream and does a better job at suggesting the boom/bust nature of things than anything I’d hope to see in just the Silicon Valley series. Soth’s photos also consistently show how isolating the California myth is. The myth is to go out and strike it rich on your own. On. Your. Own. There’s no sense of community in any of the photos. Instead Soth shows people working on individual projects or isolated by their technology or soldiering on as the last of their kind. Kids are left to their own devices—albeit safely tethered. For such a supposedly free place we’ve erected a lot of walls for ourselves.

The people all feel familiar to me too. I know them. I’ve been them. I’ve talked to them. I’ve listened to them. They’re portraits of both people and archetypes

Bringing Death Valley into the mix adds another aspect of the California experience—namely how close the state is to getting wiped out by nature. Throughout the Silicon and San Joaquin sequences, Soth has included photos of nature butting up with industry. In the Bay Area we love that nature—whether the foothills or the bay— are right there. At the same time, both threaten to wipe us out. Faultlines go through the foothills on both sides of the bay. Global warming meanwhile promises higher sea levels in the future. In the Central Valley, it’s more about resource usage and how everything dies without water.

Nature is always there, lurking, as something to be respected. Especially with regard to water availability. Everything in California relies on water at some level. Death Valley is the ultimate warning of what we risk becoming, or returning to, should we screw up our resource management.

Death Valley also serves as an example of land which we haven’t managed to tame despite all out technological advances. For all our glittering promise and talk about being able to do anything, there are parts of the state which are inhospitable and lack mobile phone coverage and won’t be getting any of that any time soon.

Minor White, in Octave of Prayer

Minor White, Authenticity, and Reverie

When people talk about pictures they talk about themselves first and the picture next if at all.

—Minor White 1

As I mentioned in the Welcome post:

Apparently it’s time to talk about Minor White on the internet, as @vossbrink and @kalli made sure to let me know. : )

Referring to a recent (in kukkurovaca time) and possibly somewhat provocative post by Alec Soth about Minor White.

There’s a lot here that’s worth talking about, and I’m not going to come anywhere close to covering it all.2 My game plan at this point3 is to write two posts:

  • This one, which addresses some of the stuff in the Soth post, and
  • another which goes into a distinct but related personal peeve/grinding axe of mine, regarding how we talk about White’s spirituality.

So, let’s talk about “Hope, Failure and Binoculars”

Despite the popcorn-making enthusiasm with which the link was forwarded to me, and despite the umbrage some Minor White enthusiasts took in response, I didn’t find Soth’s post all that objectionable. Really, the thing that grated the most was the crack about “dated” infrared. ; )

And I’ve always liked Soth’s line about binoculars being more zen than cameras.4

As for the rest, some of it’s right on, and a lot of it is a valid read even if I don’t quite agree. But there are some notes that seem off or perhaps a little misleading.

First off, some quick tips…

for anybody who’s curious about all this and doesn’t have any previous familiarity with White.

  • Placing White in a Zen or Buddhism context is commonplace, and it’s not exactly wrong, but it can be misleading.5
  • White certainly had an interest in Zen, and he’s often branded a “Zen photographer,” but really he was a syncretist who sampled his spirituality from many traditions (and made up quite a bit of it).
  • On a related point, bear in mind that “meditation” isn’t just one thing. And neither would one expect only one kind of aesthetic to come from an artist whose work is informed by meditation.
  • When reading White, and especially when drawing conclusions based on White’s own recorded assertions, one should bear in mind that:
    • White was an unreliable narrator. He lied quite a bit, and I have the impression that he liked messing with his interlocutors and students.
    • He would often retread recurring themes in cycles of optimism and pessimism. (So, don’t take any one statement as final or conclusive; look for patterns over time.)

“Frequently a penis”

After reading the Kevin Moore essay, I think it’s interesting that Soth describes it as fantastic (which it totally is) but he doesn’t seem to really go along with its premise.

Soth summarizes the photo of the man with the “bulge” as, “White isn’t dreaming for a better world, he’s looking at a hot guy in a garbage-strewn doorway.” Whereas Moore writes of the same photo that:

The scene is both explicit and coded, even to contemporary eyes. This handsome loitering man might have been taken by certain passersby for an ordinary laborer, on break or looking for work. Others might have recognized him as a man looking for sex (or for another kind of work) with other men. White’s sexual interest in men and his approach to looking at things “for what else they are” stratify the two narratives, establishing layers of meaning on parallel planes. This man is both a laborer and a cruising homosexual. He is, then, just what the photographic image in general would come to signify for White: a common trace from the visible world, transformed into another set of charged meanings.

The difference here isn’t just a matter of verbosity. Soth’s praise for the photo seems to be based on a different reading of the photograph, pushing the “layer”-edness to the background, reading/valuing only one of the layers. (At the expense not so much of the other layers as of the photograph’s ambivalent nature.)

This matters not just for this photograph, but for White’s work overall. There’s an intimate connection between the longing Soth praises in this photo and the mysticism he derides in White’s landscapes—between White’s sexuality and spirituality.

Normally I’m not a huge fan of interpreting photographs in such an armchair psychologist sort of way. I’m wary of saddling someone with unintentional intentions. But White was very much aware of/intentional about this. The following quotation seems to cover it well (and amusingly):

In my recent photos there is frequently a penis between tall things. Wish for intercourse? Who doesn’t? Also a feeling of being alone expressed? Who isn’t alone?…Expressiveness is thus connected with sexual practice. A conclusion that is in accord with conscious and formulated thought of my own, namely that photography is sublimation of my inability to have the sex I want. Interest in self-exploration in photography may be a reflection of my continual masturbation. Or photography is my equivalent of living…Sex is the basis, but not the ultimate expression, merely the foundation upon which the cathedral is built.6

Acknowledging all this connection doesn’t preclude criticism of those dreamy landscapes, of course. But I think it’s simplistic to frame such criticism in terms of a lack of grit.

Authenticity vs. Optimism

Soth is bothered by what he reads in White as evasion of inner conflict. He cites a Robert Adams quotation which attributes White’s successes and failures to, respectively, embrace of or retreat from “authenticity, the appearance of the world.”

I think there’s a lot of truth in that. Solipsism was the devil on White’s shoulder. But there can also be problems with taking as given the significance and worth of authenticity, honesty, integrity, or “grit.” (And with suspecting their opposites.)

In his conclusion, Moore describes the tension in White this way:

He wanted to be a realist—but he was not. He was a romantic, compelled to create images such as Untitled (Man and vertical surf ) (1951; fig. 17), in which meanings are obscured, not clarified; signs are effaced, not illuminated; beauty is closeted, not set out for all to see. White was attracted to the ambiguity of the dream because it offered cover and protection but also freedom to maneuver. The dream supported the irrational, maintained a sense of mystery, and beautified frustration. Most importantly, the dream conformed to the needs of the dreamer.

It makes me wonder if Soth’s post isn’t most usefully read in terms of the antipathy of realism and romanticism. Not sure.7

Soth is essentially criticizing White for being otherworldly in his mysticism—he says White’s photographs are “dripping in mystical hope.” This is hard to deny. And yet…

We need to remember that not all optimisms are created equal. Much depends not only on the nature of the hope, but on the person who is hopeful—and where they stand in relation to the world. I suspect being “authentically” in the world had different stakes for White than it has for Robert Adams or for Soth (or for me). And by the same token, I suspect that a withdrawal from the world should be read differently in his work than it would be in theirs.

An unattainable utopianism may not only function as a comforting alternative to the world; it can also be an implicit critique. “Dripping” hope may not merely be a deficit of realism; it may be transgressive against the existing order. And it can also have an element of self-care.

The needs of the dreamer

Moore’s mention of the dream which conforms “to the needs of the dreamer” reminded me of the opening of Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Reverie, and I find on pulling up a couple of the passages that they do seem quite relevant:

Upon being faced with a real world, one can discover in himself the being of worry. Then he is thrown into the world, delivered over to the inhumanity and the negativeness of the world, and the world is then the denial of the human. The demands of our reality function require that we adapt to reality, that we constitute ourselves as a reality and that we manufacture works which are realities. But doesn’t reverie, by its very essence, liberate us from the reality function? From the moment it is considered in all its simplicity, it is perfectly evident that reverie bears witness to a normal, useful, irreality function which keeps the human psyche on the fringe of all the brutality of a hostile and foreign non-self….

One can also understand the great value in establishing a phenomenology of the imaginary where the imagination is restored to its proper, all-important place as the principle of direct stimulation of psychic becoming. Imagination attempts to have a future. At first it is an element of imprudence which detaches us from heavy stabilities. We shall see that certain poetic reveries are hypothetical lives which enlarge our lives by letting us in on the secrets of the universe, a world takes form in our reverie, and this world is ours. This dreamed world teaches us the possibilities for extending our being within our universe. There is futurism in any dreamed universe. (Emphasis added)

Bachelard’s observation that realism can be hostile to us and its opposite can be healthy is one of those things that should be utterly obvious, but which in fact can be quite counterintuitive. Realism and rough and ready pragmatism (in the non-technical sense of the word) have an unearned air of epistemological superiority about them which can be difficult to shake off.

(I think it is always easiest to embrace “the demands of our reality function” when the real world is most aligned with our own assumptions and blind spots, when the norms and structures of society support the avenues of action which present themselves to us. “Reality” generally appears to be on the side of privilege.)

The connection Bachelard points out between the imagination and futurism is of particular importance. “This dreamed world teaches us the possibilities for extending our being within our universe. There is futurism in any dreamed universe.” (And I would add that the futurism is always political.)

The dreamer as escapee from the constraints of our present reality and the dreamer as architect of a possible future cannot be disentangled. (And don’t forget that White was one of the great architects of photography’s future, even if he is not remembered as clearly for it as some of similar or lesser influence.)

Which isn’t to say that every reverie is useful. The question should be whether White’s flights of fancy were those of a striving utopian or a Polyanna, providing self-care or self-deception. (I think he took plenty of each kind.)


Jumping back a bit to the Robert Adams essay8, I found it interesting that the bulk of Adams’s complaint boils down to a problem of legibility. To oversimplify, Adams likes White’s photographs with identifiable subjects; he dislikes White’s photographs without identifiable subjects and in particular where White has obscured the scale of the photograph.

Adams regards White’s abstractions as depriving the viewer of vital context:

The context is essential; miracles alone, without the norm, are not really miracles at all. Without the setting of the identifiable world we are unconvinced of White’s transcendental truths because we are not allowed to experience the conditions of their discovery.9

and he accuses White of working in a private language unavailable to the viewer, rendering “communication” impossible:

…the abstractions come to a closed landscape where, lost in our private dreams, we can no longer communicate. Sooner or later, we have to ask of all pictures what kind of life they promote, and some of these views suggest to me a frightening alienation from the world of appearances.

Entertainingly, Adams’s concerns actually parallel some of White’s. For example, in Octave of Prayer, White wrote:

They may continue, for awhile, to carry a camera because the snapshots along the Way show them where they are. camera helps them see, dimly, a direction for the next step in the fog. But such images are private; if the images communicate to others, it will be on lesser levels and accidental. (Octave of Prayer, p. 22)

In fact, White was profoundly interested in making photographs that communicate—but he didn’t perceive a contradiction between that goal and the production of photographs that were abstract, introspective, obscure, and even to many viewers totally illegible.

To make sense of this, you need to skip what White wrote about his own work, and go instead to his writings that relate to teaching photography. (e.g., in Aperture Anthology: The Minor White Years, “The Workshop Idea in Photography,” “Varieties of Responses to Photographs,” or “Some Methods for Experiencing Photographs,”) His attempts to explain his version of the photographic “equivalent” are also relevant.

That material shows that White was trying very hard to figure out how to make people able to get out of his photographs what he was putting into them. He really believed in the ability of a photograph to act as an equivalent for an inner state—to trigger feelings in the viewer corresponding to those of the photographer. His mini-manifestos on equivalents seem to be describing not an artistic genre or technique so much as a kind of slow-acting telepathy. Not merely communication, but communion.

His pedagogy and advice were phenomenological, psychological, detailed, and sometimes bizarre. They included meditation training, and, if I recall correctly, there was some mention of spectation-enhancing drugs. He was trying to articulate not just a course of study but a discipline. He didn’t set out to make photographs in an uncommunicative private language—because he believed he could teach the language.10

The trouble with this is that he believed he was discovering and articulating a universal grammar of human perception, when really he was building a very specialized conlang with some of his friends and students. It’s not that he was failing to communicate in his photographs—but that sometimes he was only doing so inside a narrow community. Catholic and democratic ideals yielding gnostic and meritocratic outcomes—if it’s not the oldest story in education (and religion), it’s close.

I agree that this is a real problem—but it’s not the result of an impulse away from communication. On the contrary, it’s the direct result of White’s overwhelming drive to communicate that which he felt could not be conveyed literally or openly.

  1. Minor White, “Varieties of Responses to Photographs,” in Aperture Anthology: The Minor WhiteYears, p. 326 
  2. Also, if there have been any developments in the intervening month or so, I probably haven’t seen them, so consider me on extreme tape delay. Sorry; this is just how long it takes me to write a post. 
  3. Written as of the third major redraft. (There’s a reason why it takes me this long.) 
  4. Although if you’ve ever seen a birder with a life list, you know that binoculars don’t preclude an acquisitive gaze. 
  5. I think the disproportionate prominence of Zen in White’s popular legend sometimes skews viewer/reader expectations, setting up disappointment or confusion. I plan to write a follow-up post expanding on this issue. 
  6. I’m not sure of the original source for this. I know it from Minor White: Rites and Passages (p. 88), which is a neat book, but light on citations. 
  7. For whatever it’s worth, Adams does cop to this in his essay. 
  8. Yeah, I bought a copy of Beauty in Photography because of this post. The book Moore’s essay is in, too. : ) 
  9. Beauty in Photography, p. 97 
  10. The assumption that the future of photography depends on fixing its audience is actually a recurring theme not just for White but for the others published in Aperture as well, and is still popular today. I know I’m not immune to it.