Now available: 5,850 photographs from the Minor White Archive (Princeton University Art Museum)
The Princeton University Art Museum has contributed approximately 5,850 images by the seminal American modernist photographer Minor White to the Artstor Digital Library. This contribution represents a substantial selection from the Minor White Archive which first went to Princeton as a gift of the artist in 1976.
Minor White (1908-1976) was one of the most important photographic artists and teachers active during the 30 years following World War II, and a key figure in shaping a distinctly modern American photographic style in thousands of works that fused a precise and meticulous technique with allegory and poetry. White passionately pursued his art, taught it, and wrote about it. He was also the founding editor of Aperture magazine. He worked and lived by his own creed: “Photography is a language more universal than words.”
A portion of the White Archive was first made accessible through a digitization and cataloguing project, begun in 2014 and funded in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). With future support, the complete holdings of more than 35,000 items (including the artist’s negatives and undocumented finished photographs, as well as his papers) will be made available, deepening the Archive as the definitive resource for White research and scholarship. In addition to the White Archive, the Princeton University Art Museum holds several other photographic archives, making it one of North America’s foremost teaching collections of historical photographs.
The launch of the new Minor White Archive website is part of the Art Museum’s recently established Minor White Project, a comprehensive effort to consider and deploy opportunities to exhibit, publish, research, acquire, and reconsider White’s work and legacy. The project is overseen by Katherine Bussard, the Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography at the Princeton University Art Museum, and supported by an expert advisory committee, including Peter C. Bunnell, the David Hunter McAlpin Professor of the History of Photography and Modern Art Emeritus; Joshua Chuang, the Miriam & Ira D. Wallach Associate Director for Arts, Prints, and Photographs, New York Public Library; Brendan Fay, Assistant Professor of Art History, Art Department, Eastern Michigan University; Cathryn Goodwin, Manager of Collections Information, Princeton University Art Museum; Emmet Gowin, artist and Professor Emeritus of the Council of the Humanities and Visual Arts, Princeton University; Jeff Rosenheim, Curator and Head of the Department of Photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art; James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director, Princeton University Art Museum; and Jeff Whetstone, artist and Professor of Visual Arts, Princeton University.
White’s archive entered the Museum’s collections during the nearly 30-year tenure of curator Peter C. Bunnell, who was a former student of White’s. In 1989, Bunnell curated Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, which interpreted White’s photographic achievements in relation to past photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Paul Strand.
A resurgence of interest in White’s work inspired several notable projects: Aperture Magazine Anthology: The Minor White Years, 1952–1976, edited and with an introduction by Peter C. Bunnell, was published in 2012; recent special exhibitions have included Minor White: Poetic Form at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2013); the J. Paul Getty Museum’s sweeping retrospective and accompanying publication (2014); and a major touring exhibition organized by the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego (2015-16). All of these projects have been facilitated by the resources of the Minor White Archive at the Princeton University Art Museum.
View the collection in the Artstor Digital Library or learn more on the Minor White Archive (Princeton University Art Museum) collection page on Artstor.