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Minor White: Manifestations of the Spirit

Paul Martineau

Controversial, misunderstood, and sometimes overlooked, Minor White (1908–1976) is one of the great photographers of the twentieth century, whose ideas exerted a powerful influence on a generation of photographers and still resonate today. His photographic career began in 1938 in Portland, Oregon, with assignments for the WPA (Works Progress Administration). After serving in World War II and studying art history at Columbia University, White’s focus shifted toward the metaphorical. He began creating images charged with symbolism and a critical aspect called equivalency, referring to the invisible spiritual energy present in a photograph made visible to the viewer.

This book brings together White’s key biographical information—his evolution as a photographer, teacher of photography, and editor of Aperture, as well as particularly insightful quotations from his journals, which he kept for more than forty years. The result is an engaging narrative that weaves through the main threads of White’s life, his growth as an artist, as well as his spiritual search and ongoing struggle with his own sexuality and self-doubt. He sought comfort in a variety of religious practices that influenced his continually metamorphosing artistic philosophy.

Complemented with a rich selection of more than 160 images including some never published before, the book accompanies the first major exhibition of White’s work since 1989, on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum July 8 to October 19, 2014.

Paul Martineau is associate curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He is the author of Paul Outerbridge: Command Performance (Getty Publications, 2009), Herb Ritts: L.A. Style (Getty Publications, 2012), and Eliot Porter: In the Realm of Nature (Getty Publications, 2012).

“A small sampling of the thousands of photographs [White] took, many in emotive sequences, are scrupulously reproduced in this handsome book. . . . This publication is a fine introduction to a gifted photographer with a genuine, original and influential individual vision, still too little known outside America.”
Burlington Magazine

“This exhibition catalog beautifully reproduces selections of the artist’s photographic work. . . . Paul Martineau’s introductory essay is not to be overlooked. . . . An important resource.”
—Library Journal

“Amid the many retrospectives of White's career, this stands as one of the best overviews, an excellent starting point in your education on one of the world's greatest photographers.”
Mother Jones

200 pages
9 1/2 x 11 inches
4 color and 160 b/w illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-322-4

Getty Publications
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum