Workshops with Minor White

Workshops with Minor White

  1. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    bowzart submitted a new resource:

    Workshops with Minor White - Workshops with Minor White

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  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Interesting description. Thanks for writing it up.

    One of the first workshops I attended was with someone who I think taught at Cleveland State University in the early 1980s who introduced us all to the practice of viewing photographs with "heightened awareness," very much as you describe here. It doesn't surprise me that Minor White would have followed such a practice, but it is interesting to see the connection.
     
  3. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Do you remember who taught the workshop?

    Those ideas were accepted and practiced for awhile, but rapidly began to disappear after about 1980. Have to wonder where all those people went. I suppose it is a fashion. Unfortunately, fashions appear and disappear it seems without a lot of connection to the value of the ideas themselves. So it seems.

    Thanks for the response.

    L.
     
  4. timbo10ca

    timbo10ca Member

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    Sounds like an enlightening experience. I've used this relaxation technique many times before. I would have loved to have met and learned from such masters as Minor White, the Westons, AA, and others of that caliber. There is overload in this day and age; workshops of this nature are no longer cutting edge. But perhaps I just have to got to more workshops...... Is a meditative state even cutting edge? Who knows, but it seems insightful, where as most formal training I've done has been "straight down to business".

    Tim
     
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  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    "Ideally, I would not "look for pictures" but would stay in a meditative state, remain open, not be critical and allow the image to find me. I never felt it worked for me then, but it does now quite often."

    My best images are usually created in this way. It is why I prefer to photograph alone and with no external time restraints to distract me. Nor am I troubled by occasionally not getting an image. It is the "seeing" that is important -- otherwise there would be never be an image to capture with the camera.

    Thank you for the notes, Larry. Good information. I assisted at many Friends of Photography down in Carmel/Pebble Beach in the 80s and early 90's...discussions until 2am or later, and then 6am field trips to photograph were common. Four hours of sleep was plenty...but then I was a young buck in my 30's back then!LOL! Usually it was just us assistants and some of the participants that kept such hours. Lots of energy and good times.

    Vaughn

    PS...I think the most demanding teacher I ever came across in a workshop was Morley Baer.
     
  6. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Thanks for posting Larry. It's great to have such a strong ongoing presence in your photographic life. It can be lonely and disheartening at times attempting to create your own objects of beauty and truth (or dare I say "equivalence") and it helps to have a guiding force to steer the way occasionally.
     
  7. lloyd

    lloyd Member

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    The Ohio workshops may have been taught by Arnold Gasson who did study with Minor back in the day.
    I was a member of a group in the early 80's run by Ron Rosenstock which drew on Minor's guided viewing techniques (Ron studied with Minor). This was a group of photographers who gathered to share work, and Ron told me a couple years ago he is still running the group, with some of the same members!
    Minor and students also worked on a book, an unpublished manuscript, of his image making and viewing meditative 'techniques'. Two volumes, probably 3-400 pages! Probably sitting in the White archives, I believe at Princeton. V. unlikely it'll ever see publication, but a very interesting read.

    lloyd
     
  8. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    It's been so long, and it was just a half-day workshop, so I don't recall the instructor, but she definitely wasn't Arnold Gassan.
     
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  9. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    I communicated with Arnold Gassan at some time in the last few years of the 1990's. He sent me a very interesting story about his meeting up with Minor and Walter Chappelle. The material in the story (entitled "The Dialogue That Failed") was quite illuminating for myself, personally, because it filled in a lot of blanks and explained to a certain extent the origins of my own historical pathways. There were references in it to people I knew or knew of, and it shed a good deal of light on Minor's introduction to Gurdjieff's teachings (which occurred through Chappelle's agency). The story reflected Gassan's disillusionment with Minor, his spirituality, his legacy, and especially of Walter. Gassan and I knew some of the same people and had very different experiences with them. I could certainly understand his point of view, however. At the time, he had retired from his professorship at Ohio U, moved to Arizona, and had changed profession, becoming a psychologist.

    At the time I was first involved in the workshops, Minor was either on his way (via Capitol Reef) to Colorado to do a workshop that Gassan had organized or had just come from there, I can't remember which. Gassan refers to that workshop in the story. I believe that it figured into the rift that eventually developed between the two men.

    We've moved since I last saw the copy of that story, so unfortunately, I don't have it at hand. One day, I'm sure it will turn up.

    My first job in photography (with the exception of processing film for the Reed College Public Information Office) was as Minor's assistant in the 1965 Portland Workshops. He wrote me a check for $50.

    The prior year, he had driven out with Brad Hindson as his assistant, but that was the last year that he drove. In 1965, he flew to Portland alone. I was with him in the lobby of the Portland Art Museum when he got the call on the public phone confirming his appointment at MIT. That year, also, his heart condition was diagnosed, again in Portland.

    My new wife of the time (life goes on) and I met up with him in San Francisco and stayed with him in a flat over a liquor store in the Filmore that was occupied by a very interesting trio, including the Reverend Katagiri (of whom Natalie Goldberg subsequently wrote). The other two were students at the SF Zen Center, where Katagiri was the second priest. My wife answered the phone once when we were alone in the flat. She said "It was Ansel. He asked to speak with the Great White Father."
     
  10. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    There are copies around. I don't think any of them are complete. I've seen about 50 pages of it. I'm sure you are right; it'll never see the light of day except, perhaps, in interpreted form through further work of those who were involved or who have had access to it. What I saw was pretty rough. Minor mentioned working on this book in his last letter to me which was posted in April, 1976, two months prior to his passing. I was unaware that his students were involved in the writing, but, consistent with his methods, they certainly were involved in the research. As I recall, it was based on experiments with viewing images by a group of subjects. I was also unaware that it was so massive; I thought the small amount I saw was what there was.
     
  11. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Well, my challenged organizational ability has been rescued once again by my wife, who has found the files. I am amazed at my good sense in giving the stuff to her so it wouldn't get lost.

    I think that Arnold Gassan's "Dialog That Failed" (as I recalled the title) must have been posted by Mr. Gassan online. I just searched and found that it has been published under the title "Dialog Failed" in various forms but is out of print. It can be found and purchased. I suspect that I read the text online, because we can't find it here. What I do have, however, is the "Minor White Denver Workshop Reports" that was prepared by Mr. Gassan. It is about 40 pp. long. There is a lot of "meat" in it.

    In addition, there is a lot of other material. I guess I'd better get to reading.
     
  12. erikg

    erikg Member

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    I was a graduate student of Arnold's in the 80's, in fact I may have driven him to retire :wink: The essays referred here were published in the same volume by Baumgartner Publications and also issued simultaneously as a double issue of Camera Lucida (#6 and 7) in 1983. The full title was "Report: minor white workshops and a dialogue failed". They represent a very good record of MW's teachings and also offer an honest perspective of one of his students. By the time I studied with Arnold he was far removed from Minor's teaching practices, but he would speak at times of the strengths and weaknesses of the methods. I do recall AG warning all of us about the risks of following a charismatic leader, encouraging us to find our own paths. I see now how that applies to life beyond photography, although I wasn't thinking about that then.
     
  13. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Thanks, this is helpful. Now that I'm into this stuff, it is becoming more interesting and important to sort it out.

    The Report that Arnold sent me does not have the "dialog failed" portion; just the report. It is a comb-bound copy identified as "facsimile edition". I also see that the workshop in Denver took place in 1963, the year before my meeting MW. I remember reference to that workshop in the 1964 sessions but couldn't remember whether it was gone by or coming up.

    I think your statements here are quite true. I got from my correspondence with AG as well as the text a sense both of appreciation for the work and what might be disappointment for what wasn't working.

    I had an intuitive sense of this very thing, at the time, and I know that it, among other factors, contributed to my declining the invitation to go with MW to MIT and live in the Arlington house. Then I went on and made my own mistakes.

    I had a bit of regret, not so much that I didn't go, but that I had those reservations and couldn't. In my correspondence with AG we discussed this. We knew a number of the same people who had been affected by that charisma factor.

    Despite that, it does seem to me that MW's work was and is extremely useful and important, has been pretty much overlooked for a good long time, and now would be a great time to bring a discussion about it forward. It would be unfortunate if MW's work were to remain discounted, or equally unfortunate for him to be sanctified after his "crucifixion" following the "Octave of Prayer" show - which I think is generally misunderstood. There is a lot of confusion about it, it seems, an unpleasant taste, a kind of widespread embarrassment. Am I wrong about this? I know that there is some general misperception of Alan Coleman's role; I am sure that Coleman, too, must have had a great deal of conflict within himself about it.

    I get a bit uneasy when the "great" are elevated beyond human status. Like with his friend Ansel Adams, opinions are likely to run fairly hot and cold about MW, and that is probably the way it ought to be. For a long time now, they haven't been running much at all.

    It would be just great if MW's former students would begin talking. For one, I have deliberately held myself out and have not participated in any of the public events, such as Aperture's memorial. Michael Hoffman encouraged me to do so, but somehow I couldn't. I think it may have to do with some ambivalence. I don't pretend to be rational.
     
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  15. lloyd

    lloyd Member

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    "There are copies around. I don't think any of them are complete. I've seen about 50 pages of it. "

    I've seen the complete text and it's two volumes, typed, each well over 100 pages, and probably close to 200 pages.

    I regret never meeting Minor but I was just getting serious about
    photography when he passed.

    An old article by Janet Buerger in Image magazine- "MW and The Significance of formal quality in his photographs" puts a perspective on his work that
    squarely elucidates the importance of his work to the medium--his work as opposed to his teaching. For me, he is without question one of the most
    significant practitioners of the medium in the 20th century.

    lloyd
     
  16. Ian Leake

    Ian Leake Subscriber

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    Thank you for posting this. I've used the same meditative technique to get to sleep (though moving from scalp to toes), but I'd never have thought of using it to prepare to see.
     
  17. mcd

    mcd Member

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    Thanks for posting this. It's been a long time since I have heard anyone talk about Minor. What a different direction modern photography has taken...
     
  18. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    The juggernaught rolls along. It is sort of depressing isn't it, that everything is forgotten, as whatever is new becomes the focus. Why not have it all?
     
  19. Emile de Leon

    Emile de Leon Member

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    Thanks for sharing your experiences...

    This brings back memories of my time spent with a Gurdjieff group in the early 80's in NH and my search for self thru art and music and the meeting of certain people in and apart from that group who could help in this regard....

    But...with all teachers of this magnitude there is the good and the bad... ultimately the good prevails.....

    Perhaps you might post times and places where you plan to hold workshops of this sort.....
    Best,
    Emile
     
  20. sonofdanang

    sonofdanang Member

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    Halide permanent
    Intent transitory
    Acolyte abandons
     
  21. rjmccutchan

    rjmccutchan Member

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    Are there any workshops going on today based on the teachings of White, Gassan, and photographers like them? If so, I would love to attend some. I have been studying about Minor lately and am fascinated!
     
  22. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    This might be difficult. It would certainly be possible to offer a course about White that could also include Gassan's critique. As discussed above, Gassan broke with White in about 1964. Subsequently, his work diverged considerably from White's. I think you might have to choose one direction or the other. I do have a colleague who studied with Gassan in the late 1960's or early '70's in Ohio. He and I have discussed the possibility of workshops, so I think he might be interested in doing something with it. I suspect, though, that he'd want to go his own way rather than to teach Gassan. He's been teaching since the early '70's and there's been a lot of water under the bridge. Same is true for me. I've learned a lot since MW, and have incorporated his ample contributions into my own point of view.

    A workshop could incorporate MW's visual training and/or techniques. The visual training, viewing images, etc. would be possible, but the technical part of it doesn't seem very useful to me since there are so many good technical workshops accessible right here through APUG. Technical elements could be incorporated, though. A workshop in MW's photographic techniques would miss the point altogether. Having worked with him, I have to say that I think the technical part of his presentation was not as strong as the rest of it. I had to read AA to really understand what was going on. He had a way of mystifying it, which really wasn't very helpful, in my view.

    Then there is the philosophical aspect. It would be pretty hard to find someone who could handle that. Most people familiar with MW's philosophy have studied it; they don't live it. Perhaps the best avenue there might be to check out John Daido Loori at Zen Mountain Monastery in New York state. My wife studied with him and got a lot from her work there. He was a student of MW's, and since he is a Zen guy, would have a great deal of insight into that aspect of MW's teachings.

    MW was eclectic; while he had a lot of interest in Zen, his basis was probably more oriented toward Gurdjieff. Finding someone with the breadth to cope with even 1/10th of all of this might be pretty hard.

    I've thought a lot about it and have pretty much decided it would be a no go. As can be seen from the responses above, only two people have expressed interest in workshops. Comparing the popularity of the MW topic to that of the AA article, it is clear that the interest in MW's ideas is relatively low. Preparing, promoting, and presenting a workshop may not be worth it for just a few participants. The cost might have to be high, or they'd have to be informal.

    Since I believe that his ideas are extremely important, this rather saddens me. If we look at the topics discussed here on APUG, we find lots about technique, how-to, equipment, etc. When ideas with any particular depth are introduced, they attract relatively few individuals, but those who show up are often enthusiastic. The threads can be pretty hot but they don't tend to go on for a long time. They run out. I very much wish it were otherwise. Maybe it will change. We can hope.
     
  23. Jayd

    Jayd Member

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    More Minor White Please

    I just stared to study Minor White and find his Ideals in " The moment of seeing" extremely helpful. I wish the whole book where about White's teaching rather then just a section. Unfortunately The Moment of Seeing seems the only Minor White book widely available. The Library has no others, on eBay what can be found come at quite high prices.
    Where can I find more resources at reasonable cost? So I can understand this man's teachings: I really think he has a contribution to the world that has been left behind.
    I'm sure White like most if not all very bright gifted people had his flaws and struggles with life. I wonder if his unpublished manuscripts aren’t evidence of a struggle to communicate or of some hidden self-doubt?
    Not that the answer to those questions affect what he has to give us but I hope to some day know enough of him from his own writings to answer those questions.

    Thank you for the discussion so far
    Jay
     
  24. Jayd

    Jayd Member

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    Why Minor White

    Perhaps I should explain my interest a bit farther: after 20+ years in photography mostly as armature and sometime pro in the news and multimedia industries, I find I am not interested in pretty pictures in the since that Ansel Adams made beautiful landscapes or a portrait of a young woman would be pretty. Rather I want to make the images I see in my head when I look at fallen trees, weathered wood, old interesting buildings, Windows, doors, steps and many objects in there found state as much as possible, and documenting the fast decline of the small family farm. My kind of beauty is in the shape, perceived texture, tonality, and emotion.
    I am the extension of Vision type where as much as possible the creation of the image ends at the moment of exposure. Perhaps part my training in the news and slide production for multimedia business and part my purism.
    Jay
     
  25. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Not a bad guess, but I don't think so. He died quite inconveniently. In my last communication with him, two months before his death, he mentioned that he was working on the manuscript referenced above.
     
  26. rjmccutchan

    rjmccutchan Member

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    That is the great thing about teaching: Take what one has learned, mix it with personal experiences, and you get a unique point of view, which the next person can build upon and then contribute to the next person, and so on...

    I agree with you about the technical aspects. There is ample information easily available to anyone who would take the time to study. I am amazed at the amount of information I have obtained with just a few mouse clicks, whether analog or digital. But it is much more difficult to teach someone to reach inside and create photographs from what they feel. What little I have been studying lately about the great photographers from the past has helped me understand why I photograph what I do.

    I really hope you and your colleague decide to do some workshops sometime. I know some of us need this kind of influence.