Public Symposium: Minor White’s Beginnings

April 20, 2018 @ 9:30 am – 5:00 pm
Whitsell Auditorium

Free and open to the public. Ticket reservations recommended.

This symposium will be streamed live on our YouTube channel.

Join curators, art historians, artists, and archivists from around the country for a free, day-long discussion about Minor White’s early photographic work in Oregon, his influences, and his legacy.

In this daylong symposium co-organized by the Portland Art Museum and the Princeton University Art Museum, scholars of art and art history, archivists, and artists will explore Minor White’s early career and works, and discuss the ways that White’s art and archives are being cared for and accessed by the public. Please join us on April 20 for part or all of this free event, which celebrates the museum’s current exhibition In the Beginning: Minor White’s Oregon Photographs.


9:30 a.m.

Portland Art Museum’s Photographic Beginnings: Minor White’s WPA Images of Oregon
Julia Dolan, Ph.D., Minor White Curator of Photography, Portland Art Museum

Dr. Dolan will discuss the Portland Art Museum’s holdings of Minor White’s photographs of Oregon and how they became the institution’s first fine art photography acquisitions.

10:15 a.m.

Seeing like a Westerner—Oregon Landscapes around 1940
Ian Bourland, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Maryland Institute College of Art

Professor Bourland will explore White’s Eastern Oregon landscapes and his time in Portland, where he engaged with the teachings of the f.64 group and joined a deeper history of picturing the American West.

11 a.m.

Behind the Scenes: Minor White’s Archives in Portland and at Princeton
Val Ballestrem, Education Manager, Architectural Heritage Center
Matthew Cowan, Archivist for Photography and Moving Images, Oregon Historical Society
Julia Dolan, Ph.D., Minor White Curator of Photography, Portland Art Museum
Cathryn Goodwin, Manager of Collections Information, Princeton University Art Museum
Kenneth Hawkins, Ph.D., archivist and author

A conversation consisting of multiple perspectives, the panel will discuss the nature of White’s archival materials, how they are accessed by the public and used by outside institutions, and the valuable information they hold.



1:30 p.m.

From Expression to Creation: Minor White’s Theater
Todd Cronan, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Modern Art, Department of Art History, Emory University

White provocatively declared “candid” photography a “dead end.” White’s alternative to the subject “caught unawares” was what he called the “camera-conscious” approach. Professor Cronan contends that White’s engagement with theater that began at the Portland Civic Theatre changed the course of his photography. Moving from caught to conscious photography, his staged scenes opened up an influential course for the future of photographic practice.

2:15 p.m.

Characteristic Photography for Students of the Art
Brendan Fay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Art and Design, Eastern Michigan University

Professor Fay will discuss White’s growing need to provide students a systematic introduction to photography and its possibilities, and his resulting reuse and repackaging of his Oregon pictures at the California School of Fine Arts in the 1940s and 1950s.

3 p.m.

Legacy: Minor White’s Relevance to Contemporary Practice
Aspen Mays, Artist and Assistant Professor in Graduate Fine Arts and Undergraduate Photography, California College of the Arts
Katherine Bussard, Ph.D., Peter C. Bunnell Curator of Photography, Princeton University Art Museum

This conversation will consider the impact of White’s photographs and teachings on a contemporary artist and photography professor.

4 p.m.

Concluding discussion

This symposium is supported by the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum.


The Portland Art Museum is pleased to offer accommodations to ensure that our programs are accessible and inclusive. All spaces for this program are accessible by wheelchair. Assistive listening devices are also available for lectures. All restrooms have accessible stalls but no power doors. There are single-stall all-gender bathrooms available. Please ask staff for directions.

We will do our best to accommodate your needs when you arrive, however, we need 2-3 weeks advance notice for some specific requests. Please email requests to, or call 503-226-2811.

Minor White, Untitled (Dock), ca. 1939, gelatin silver print.
Minor White, Untitled (Dock), ca. 1939, gelatin silver print. Courtesy of the Fine Arts Program, Public Buildings Service, U.S. General Services Administration. Commissioned through the New Deal art projects, public domain, L42.3.10