Before I get moving with the Fujifilm X-T2 write up, I thought I’d write about a book I’ve had in my collection for a few years. Minor White is not nearly as well known as Ansel Adams, or Edward Weston, however his work is unquestionably deserving of the same legendary status. Perhaps we all come to the work of each photographer for different reasons. Ansel Adams, for example, made superb abstracts and cityscapes, but he is best known for his photographs of wilderness areas. For me, the name Minor White is synonymous with complex, subtle and often mysterious natural abstracts. The book is called Manifestations Of The Spirit and I can’t think of a more appropriate title.
Manifestations Of The Spirit is a hardback of approximately 9.5 x 0.9 x 11 inches, or 24 x 2.2 x 28cm. It is cloth bound (in grey) solidly made and covered with a printed dust jacket. At its current price it appears to be good value overall.
Paper stock is bright white with a very smooth off gloss finish. I cannot think of a similar dark room paper, but something like Forte (or Oriental Seagull) semi-gloss might be closest in terms of texture and sheen. Print resolution is adequate and certainly not bad, but it could be better. The book contains 148 plates along with additional images in the introduction, so it feel nice and meaty, without being overstuffed. Overall it is a ‘very nice’ book, which is likely too wear well and continue to deliver viewing pleasure for many years.
Apart from a few figure studies at the beginning of the book, the vast majority of plates are presented one to a page (which is my preferred layout). There are no double-page spreads, which ensures that every plate has plenty of breathing space. Importantly, each image is surrounded by a white paper border, which I feel is essential to setting its respective tones.
I will be honest and say that Minor White’s figure/nude studies and portraits do not really grab me. I don’t feel they are as accomplished as Edward Weston’s (for example) and I don’t feel they connect very well with White’s other work, which makes up the vast majority of plates in the book. This is a personal opinion of course and your view may be very different to mine. I will therefore move swiftly on to the work that I feel is…. fabulous.
The subject matter is wide ranging, including street scenes, cityscapes, classical landscapes and a wide range of abstracts. The abstracts really are a category of their own, with still life, landscape, urban and natural examples all well represented. I am somewhat reminded of Wynn Bullock’s work every time I look at White’s abstract photographs. As well as more formal images that perhaps find parallel with some of Harry Callahan’s, many of White’s abstract photographs moved firmly into a different realm. Other worldly, mysterious, mystical and transformative are all words that come to mind. Edward & Brett Weston and Ansel Adams are all fantastic photographers, whose work I love. However, where their work ends, Minor White’s begins. When our eyes become comfortable and our minds request ‘expansion’, White’s photographs open up new horizons. If you are anything like me, they will both stir and sooth if your soul, while defying easy description (this brings us back to the wonderful title of this book).
Manifestations Of The Spirit is an excellent book, filled with stunning photography. I can’t imagine a black and white leaning photographer’s book collection could feel in any way complete without a copy. At £27 in the UK (through Amazon), it is also represents something of a bargain.