Sometimes overlooked and controversial Minor Martin White was undoubtedly the foremost photographer of the 20th century. His great and usually misunderstood works demonstrate comprehension of photography’s aesthetic sides and potential for comprehensive spiritual transformation. White has exerted a powerful impact on the next generations of photographers, who still honor him nowadays (Knight). Photography has made White’s continuous search for spiritual transcendence visible. Through medium, the master could easily express his sexual desire for males. Minor White remains one of the most influential, enigmatic, interesting, open-handed, and sensitive U.S. editor and photographer, whose efforts to extend expression of photos greatly affected creative and unique photography in the 20th century underscoring metaphysical and spiritual relationship between photographers and their subjects (Martineau 22).
Photographs taken by Minor White offer viewers a portrait of author’s life reflecting the human beings and the natural world. Retrospective Manifestations of the Spirit represented at the Getty Center consists of an outstanding collection of crisp photos. Stunning catalogue of the author’s fresh works weaves together White’s internal spiritual search with chronological output.
The author’s early photographs reflecting nascent spiritual awakening include symbolic hints similarly to the remarkable gelatin silver print “Cabbage Hill, Oregon” of 1941. A corner of a broken fence coiled with barbed wire associates not only with severe and long physical labor and redemption of humanity but also through Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross. After the relocation to Portland, the master of photography started to disclose an aptitude for a highly naturalistic and the realist style of his works. One can recognize it in the “Cabbage Hill, Oregon,” where convergent angles create a mystical point through wooden planks and circular barbed wire. Viewers’ eyes continue to wander across the photography not knowing where to land yet realizing that it keeps going. Using his camera as a necessary tool for self-development and self-discovery, Minor White started to weave leading strands of the U.S. photography. Pictorialism as the aesthetic approach to photography proved its artistic status with composition, tonality, and matter. It can be reflected through metaphorical, subjective, and sophisticated expression in the picture. Straight photography advocates objectivity underscoring the main structure. It greatly resounds in the “Cabbage Hill” (Knight).
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One can read apparently strange shades in other gelatin silver print created by White, “Tom Murphy, San Francisco” of 1948. Naked, beautiful, and muscular man turned his head to the side, turned his gaze down, and crossed both his hands. Murphy was Minor’s student and model. One may freely regard the picture as a visual love letter written by the master. Murphy in this photograph appears in anguish and expresses suppression and desire using his body. Mysterious and divine male form fascinated White. Photography of Tom Murphy expresses the author’s complex mixture of emotions as well as the sense full of care and reverence. While making another picture of his muse, the author alternates rhythms of immobility, serenity, and motion and represents his emotional state, anguish to ecstasy (Martineau 8).
Most of Minor White’s works in an outstanding exhibition Manifestations of the Spirit have little to do with the theme of sexuality. Instead, the photographer focused on the natural aspects and harmonious details of the world. White used the sequence to enhance the dialogue between the audience and artist, as well as images. Every White’s work is his abstract poetic response to the emotional connection with the main subject. The author considered photography as a metaphor that he used as the basis for every single work. Viewers who are ready to bring their intuition, mind, and heart to play on sequence will undoubtedly reach comprehension. Exhibition dedicated to Minor’s Manifestations of the Spirit was especially designed to capture public’s attention immediately and convey a simple message: Minor White sought to express the long-lasting relationships with one another, the natural world, and infinity.