Minor White Quote

February 27, 2021  •  8 Comments

SteadfastSteadfastJoshua Tree National Park, California
One should not only photograph things for what they are but for what else they are.
                                                                                                              - Minor White

I find this quote helpful when looking for interesting rocks, trees and clouds.  My friend Alex and I were having a discussion (Scotch was involved, so take that into account) about 'Art' and just what the hell makes art, 'Art', and why do photographers have such a difficult time with it. It's almost as if we have an inferiority complex over what it is we create.  Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) we did not come up with a satisfactory answer but both agreed that we like what we do in our pursuit and it's for others to decide if it's Art or not.  That rabbit hole is too deep and twisting to spend valuable drinking time spinning around in it. 

Nonetheless, I spent a bit of the night thinking about our chat and it was then I remembered what Minor White said and I think that's my approach when deciding what and how I'll photograph a subject. The example above reflects this thinking. Whether Mr. White would agree is not really important to me. He sent me on this journey and I'll follow it best I can. 

The boulder is from Joshua Tree National Park and it's a typical boulder from Joshua Tree, exceptional in its potential but ordinary when seen among its brethren. I appreciated its stance and heft and found I could align the mountain range in the background with the lines of the boulder and so I did. I was fortunate for clouds as they softened the harshness of the light on the surface and provided a nice set of textures and lines for the sky. It was always going to be a monochrome image and I found while processing it that the range of tones and the tonal quality were perfectly suited for monochrome. 

So, back to Mr. White. Is it something else than what it is? Does it extend beyond its rock essence? I feel in some ways it does. Anyone can see it's a big rock, "Yep, big rock, swipe right, move on." But what I found and tried to convey was its timelessness; its textures, shapes, and tones; finding nature aligned with the environment and the eternal and massive gravity that I didn't completely recognize when there. By converting it to B&W I distorted its reality but not beyond recognition, thus a moderate touch transforming something ordinary in order to find what is extra-ordinary, what else it is. 

I hope you like it. 



lynn wohlers(non-registered)
Yes, absolutely, a rock and more than a rock. Not that anything needs to be "more than" itself, but rather, a photograph needs to say something more than to only identify an object, person, etc. That has its uses but being something more (and it's be the same for painting & sculpture) keeps a viewer interested, which is a gift. I think the gift-giving aspect is an important part of the whole project of art.
Gary Simpson(non-registered)
Puts me in mind of the top half of my bottom molar. I like it.
T.M. Schultze(non-registered)
A boulder is just a large rock, until you make it something else. I have always appreciated your ability to excel on the latter.
Monte Stevens(non-registered)
Interesting post, as usual. A few glasses of scotch along with deep conversations will bring up these sort of posts. I do like the image and what you have done with it. Intriguing that you could see more in this image than others and were able to compose it as you did. I also didn't notice the mountain range aligning with the rock. I also see a bit of a heart shape to the rock.

It seems we can get hung up on our philosophical takes on art and photography. I do believe that I'm creating every time I compose and press the shutter button, whether that's art or not is irrelevant at that moment.
I liked the photograph because the clouds seemed to form the "other half" of the boulder, like 2 halves of an avocado tht go together with a space between.

I actually had not even noticed (or at least I had not consciously noticed)that the top edge of the rock followed the ridge line of the mountains until I read it within your accompanying posting.

As to what is "Art", It's an interesting debate. I am not an artist and I don't have an artistic bone in my body so I am not qualified to weigh in. I will leave that to those of you who are artists to debate.

When I was young I worked at Washington DC's largest law firm Arnold & Porter running their Wang VS mini computers... New Biden Attorney General and former Obama Supreme Court Justice nominee, Merrick Garland worked there and often went to lunch with us. Anyway, the law firm moved into a new building and decided to decorate by purchasing artwork both paintings and photography from new "up and coming" artists. The idea was to purchase the art, give it 5 to 10 years to appreciate. Then sell it and reinvest the profits into more new artwork, keeping the offices looking "fresh" much like a rotating collection at an art gallery. One particular painting was particularly polarizing - people either loved it or hated it, there was no in between, It was hung in a prominent place by the main entrance and received a lot of publicity from both clients and in the local press. It was a large (12 foot diameter) rectangular piece of "modern art" that look as if the artist has randomly globbed on paint in splotches on the canvas. in various colors and thicknesses such that the canvas weighed a lot more than a typical painting of that size and had to be hung with special extra heavy duty supports.

As I noted it generated a lot of publicity for the law firm which delighted in the attention and even scheduled special evening "art tours" through the offices. About a two years after this painting was hung (which was about 3 years into this new "art program") the artist came from Hungary or someplace in Eastern Europe- I can't remember exactly where he was from to give an art lecture and talk about his art and this particular painting. He came to the offices and to his horror, his artwork had been hanging upside down for the past two years. The newspapers picked this up too and the law firm was the laughing stock of Washington DC!
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