Minor White: “Could the Critic in Photography Be Passé”

We don’t normally post bare quotations here without comment, but this seems super relevant, to one of our recent posts, a nice post that @vossbrink just put up, and several recent posts that we link to as well as others floating in the ether.

Our world is in a state of flux and observers in all fields publish their attempts to identify what is going on in society, art, science, philosophy. Two samples of hundreds to the point may be for Aperture.

Harley W. Parker in the 1967 Winter Issue of the Harvard Art Review looks at the art world. The quotation from Dr. Warren T. Hill encompasses a mauch larger world. Parker says this:

The problem of the aritst, indeed of the entire western world, raises the fact that instantaneity of communication has shattered the slow stutter of printed dispersal of information. as a result the mores of the world and therefore the structure of art which illuminates that world has totally changed. Art, as such, is the domain of no individual today…I prefer to use the word creativity rather than art. For today it is becoming increasingly obvious that the process rather than the product is the important factor in terms of man’s psyche.”

This has a familiar ring. The great psyche-oriented religions of the world have left us m any similar analects, “Give all your attention to the making and the product will take care of itself.”

Two manifestations of “process,” one individual and one collective, are included in this issue of Aperture. Jerry N. Uelsmann represents the individual. With one camera and six enlargers he manipulates images with a skill that makes involvement in process yield meaningful products….

With the contemporary shift towards process and relationships and away from standards, photography is obviously affected. It may well be that mong the more mature photographers the “great” photograph as a goal has lost its attractiveness and certainly among the rebellious youngsters the usual standards are tabu. It may well be that what is now more important and meaningful to the photographer is to be out in the sun, to be out in the streets, or to be in the studios and darkrooms making photographs and making images. Making affirms his existence and the product is a chewing gum wrapper. The product must be paramount in the museums. to keep abreast of the swing, museums may have to reqlinquish their role of the taste setter and standard bearer….

In a period in which process is paramount, the teacher who uses the photographic images as a means of human interchange will be more useful than the critic.

Minor White, “Could the Critic in Photography Be Passé”, 1967, republished in Aperture Anthology: The Minor White Years, pp. 355-356.

I’m slowly but surely mowing my way through the anthology, and I should have a post up on it — well, I won’t say soon, so as not to jinx it, but sooner or later. But this is just too good not to put up in the meantime.

Note particularly the accelerating pace of publication/dissemination of information, the decline of “great” photographs, and the emphasis on process over product.

blog comments powered by Disqus