(1908-76) was one of the greatest American photographers of the period after the Second World War as well as one of the greatest teachers of the medium. One of the best-known names in photography until the end of the 1970s, his life and work has since then virtually dropped out of photographic discourse. Probably for many younger photographers his name means little or nothing.
White was a deeply religious man whose whole life was a spiritual journey. His photography arose out of this and was an inherent part of this pilgrimage. It isn't an approach that has been fashionable in academic circles in recent years.
In 1952, White became editor of Aperture. When CSFA cut its photography programme, Beaumont Newhall invited him to the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, where he curated exhibitions 1953-6. In 1956, White joined the Rochester Institute of Technology, inaugurating his famous photography workshops, whose ethos of personal growth included exercises in awareness derived from G. I. Gurdjieff, and Jungian and Gestalt psychology. He expanded this work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1965, and in 1970 received a Guggenheim Fellowship for ‘Consciousness in Photography and the Creative Audience’, a manuscript on universalizing photographic expression. In 1970, the Philadelphia Museum of Art mounted a national tour of his photographs. White's own exhibitions attracted controversy; he was accused of mystical obfuscation in Octave of Prayer (MIT, 1972), which suggested that photographs of the external world might correspond to spiritual inwardness. Ill health brought White's retirement from MIT in 1974, and he gave up editing Aperture in 1975, though he continued to photograph until his death. His archives are at Princeton University, and his book.