Minor White, Nude Foot, San Francisco, 1947. The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum ©Trustees of Princeton University

Minor White, Nude Foot, San Francisco, 1947. The Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum ©Trustees of Princeton University

We asked Michelle Dunn Marsh,Executive Director of The Photo Center Northwest and founder of Minor Matters, to tell us about a picture that meant something to her, and why.

 

Minor White entered my consciousness through conversations with Stevan Baron, and later Michael Hoffman, both pillars of Aperture and students of Minor. So I knew of Minor first as a teacher, then a photographer, and eventually I consumed his writings and the substantial influence of his photographic sequences. I began a publishing platform, Minor Matters, as an active prayer and homage to what I have learned from his life’s work.

Minor left his birthplace of Minneapolis bound for Seattle, the city where I was born, and where I now lead The Photo Center Northwest. He never made it there, running out of money in Portland, where he lived briefly and made some early photographs. I love that he felt present in that region, and returned there over many years to teach his Interim Workshops.

I live with two of his photographs, one of which is Nude Foot, 1947. My manifestation is a 4×5 contact print. When I first viewed it as an eager and anxious graduate student, I was drawn to the sculptural beauty of the unknown man in the image. His body, angled within the frame, emerged from what seemed an intimate, mysterious, yet ultimately peaceful space. Raised Catholic, I spent much of my childhood staring at Christ’s feet dangling from the cross, and during Easter rituals it was traditional to kiss them. This foot hangs down also, balletic and fragile, but revealing the sole. The soul.

Over the decade as I have lived with this print I have grown in my awareness of myself as a woman, a lover, a teacher, and a viewer. As I articulate equivalents within my being, I continue to discover new dimensions in the photograph. I do not make images, but Minor’s belief that a viewer activates a photograph has made space for my practice of seeing, an ongoing and lifelong pursuit that is nurtured by this print.