Minor White negatives

Pioneer courthouse Pioneer courthouse Pioneer courthouse Cook Building door Front Avenue Buildings and automobiles on Front Avenue The Portland Hotel SW 1st Avenue Miles Building details Broadway Bridge Warehouse on the Willamette River Allen and Lewis Block Buildings on Front Avenue at Ankeny Cast-iron pilaster 57 Front Avenue “Barbara C” Ship Western Foundry Co. Warehouse Western Fruit & Produce Company cast-iron balcony Northwestern Electric Company Old tree and warehouses Portland Waterfront, 1938 Waterfront and Hawthorne Bridge Snow Building Details Ladd Building Details Kamm Building Details Kamm Building Details Governor George Curry House
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Identity elements

Reference code

Org. Lot 52

Name and location of repository

Level of description



Minor White negatives


  • 1938-1940 (Creation)


0.5 cubic feet 1 document case 210 negatives, black and white

Name of creator


Biographical history

American photographer Minor White was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on July 9, 1908. After graduating from the University of Minneapolis with a degree in botany, White began pursuing photography. In 1937, he relocated to Portland, Oregon, where he joined the Oregon Camera Club. Within the year, White began a photography club at the YMCA. Shortly after his arrival in Portland, White was offered a position in the Works Progress Administration as a creative photographer for the Oregon Art Project. White spent the next several months photographing the Portland waterfront and the city's soon-to-be demolished cast-iron buildings. This project was completed in 1939, and the next year, White left Portland for La Grande, Oregon, to teach photography through another WPA assignment. Minor White photographed a great deal of natural scenery during this time. In 1942, White briefly returned to Portland, photographing the Knapp-Lindley and Dolph-Jacobs residences in a project commissioned by the Portland Art Museum. In April 1942, he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

After his return from World War II in 1945, White moved to San Francisco upon the invitation of fellow photographer Ansel Adams to teach at the California School of Fine Arts. In 1952, with the help of Adams and several others, White created Aperture, a magazine dedicated to creating a forum in which photographers could share their work and opinions. The following year, White moved to Rochester, New York, to continue his teaching career at the Rochester Institute of Technology. From 1959 to 1965, White returned to Portland annually to teach summer workshops that were known for their intensity and dedication to White's signature teaching of photography as a spiritual experience. In 1966, White moved to Boston, where he finished his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He died on June 24, 1976, at the age of 67.

White was perhaps best known for his expansion on the symbolist idea of photographic equivalents. Equivalent photographs (earlier espoused by Alfred Steiglitz) depict abstract images that are meant to suggest specific human emotions. For White, equivalents were a means to show the spiritual nature of photography.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection consists of 210 black-and-white negatives shot by Minor White during his time in Oregon betwen 1938 and 1940. The bulk of the negatives, and of particular note, are White's photographs of numerous buildings and blocks - primarily cast-iron-fronted - near the Portland waterfront, which include, in part: the Miles Building, the Hotel Portland, the New Market Block, the Snow Building, the Opitz Building, and the Starr Block. Many of these buildings are no longer standing.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

Collection is open for research.

Physical access

Negatives are not available for direct access. Contact staff for assistance.

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The Oregon Historical Society owns the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. The Society does not necessarily hold copyright to all materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from copyright owners.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

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Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

Immediate source of acquisition

Gift of Minor White, 1942.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Reference prints of the negatives are available at the OHS Research Library.

Related archival materials

Additional Minor White photographs are included in the Portland Civic Theatre Photographs collection, Org. Lot 847 at the Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

Other notable collections of Minor White photographs are held at the Princeton University Minor White Archive and the Portland Art Museum.

Related descriptions

Notes element

General note

Item descriptions for collection items provided by Kenneth Hawkins.

Specialized notes

  • Citation: Minor White Photographs, Org. Lot 52, Oregon Historical Society Research Library.

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