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  Clarence H. White, Photographer

The man photo historian Naomi Rosenblum referred to as "the archetypal Pictorialist photographer of the United States" was born Clarence Hudson White in Ohio in 1871. He spent most of his childhood in the towns of West Carlisle and neighboring Newark. After high school, Mr. White became a bookkeeper for a local wholesale grocer, and married hometown girl Jane Felix in 1893. They spent their honeymoon at Chicago's Columbian Exposition, which is where the young bookkeeper's interest in Pictorial photography began. Soon, he was making portraits of his favorite subjects, wife Jane and her sister Letitia, using a Premo (6-1/2 x 8-1/2) view camera fitted with a 13-inch portrait lens.

Due to his lack of formal education and training, Mr. White exercised his creative vision freely with experiments in light and form without strict adherence to conventional standards. His 'misty' portraits caught the attention of fellow photographer Alfred Stieglitz, which led to Mr. White's acceptance into the Philadelphia Salon in 1898. Within a few years, he was elected to the prestigious Linked Ring Brotherhood along with his friend Gertrude Kasebier. He worked in Mr. Stieglitz's studio on the development of the autochrome process, and the two co-founded Camera Work in 1903, which featured many of Mr. White's portraits, including the innovative "Drops of Rain." Shortly thereafter, Mr. White opened his own Fifth Avenue studio, and within a few years was offered the position of Pictorial photography instructor at Columbia University's Teacher's College. By 1908, he joined the faculty of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences (now known as the Brooklyn Museum) as professor of photography. Mr. White's students included Anton Bruehl, Dorothea Lange, and Margaret Bourke-White, among others.

In 1910, he founded a photography summer school in Maine while still maintaining a rigorous gallery schedule, which described the photographer in a 1913 issue of Photo-era Magazine as "ever ready to enlighten the mind of the troubled amateur, to interest him in his work, or to proffer desired criticism." While Professor White's career as an educator flourished, his personal output dwindled, leading to a professional break with Mr. Stieglitz in 1912. Two years later, the Clarence White School of Photography opened its doors, which became Mr. White's passion and central focus for the remainder of his life. He observed, "I still have a thrill when I think I am on the right road, and a little envy when I see a beginner who appears to have arrived." Although many of Mr. White's contemporaries began abandoning Pictorialism in favor of Modernism during World War I, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to the medium, and was named the first President of the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916. Mr. White had commenced applying Pictorialist principles to commercial design when he died suddenly of a heart attack in Mexico City on July 8, 1925. His wife and son Clarence White, Jr., worked vigorously to keep his school open until 1942. In 1986, Mr. White was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum for his many contributions as a photographer and educator. Friend and fellow photographer Edward R. Dickson heralded Clarence H. White as "a master-photographer who is destined to have an imperishable name in this history of his art."

1908 Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly, No. XXIII (New York: Alfred Stieglitz), p. 41.

2015 Clarence H. White: International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum by Lori Oden (URL:

2014 The Clarence H. White School of Photography by Bonnie Yochelson (URL:

2006 Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 1678-1680.

1913 Photo-era Magazine, Vol. XXX (Boston: Wilfred A. French), pp. 3-4.

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2016-05-28 01:54:38

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