the zen of camerawork

Gratitude to Roy Money for his thoughtful offer to share his article Minor White and the Quest for Spirit here, knowing it would be of great interest to readers of this site, and also to Christine Cote, editor and publisher of Still Point Arts Quarterly where the article first appeared. This post is a teaser – you’ll have to click through to the page to read the whole article and view more of White’s photographs. You will not be disappointed!

Minor White - Empty Head, 1962


Minor White was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century and he generated considerable controversy in his last years for the promotion of spirituality. I met him early in my introduction to photography and admired his work. I recently renewed my interest in him because of a developing involvement in Zen practice and efforts to explore spirituality in relation to my own photographs.

Minor was not only an important artist but also a teacher, editor and curator, and his language of spirit and spirituality came at a time when it had declining credibility in the art world. Though this language had a certain resonance within the wider cultural scene of the sixties it was an early and continuing theme for White that was no doubt stimulated by the challenge of living as a homosexual in an era before gay rights. Spirituality has long been associated with finding relief from the misfortunes and injustices of the social world, as well as finding purpose in the midst of uncertainty and doubt. Of course spirituality has also been an ageless source of inspiration for artists exploring the uncharted domains of human awareness and creativity.

Many people are unaware of the importance of spiritual and metaphysical issues in the development of modernist art. Indeed there was a reluctance of many artists to talk about this, for fear it would be misunderstood. Picasso is credited with saying “Something sacred, that’s it… We can’t say that… people would put a wrong interpretation on it. And yet it’s the nearest we can get to the truth.” (Lipsey) In that sense Minor White’s concern with spirituality was mostly notable because of ways he made an issue of it. […]

– Roy Money, Minor White and the Quest for Spirit

Continue reading …

Image: Photograph by Minor White, Empty Head, 1962
Sourced from the public domain.

Related pages and posts on this site:

John Daido Loori – let your subject find you

Minor White – equivalence: the perennial trend

Deborah Barlow – the daylighting has begun

Roy Money at the artisans’ gallery

miró, joy and claude smith


Claude Smith: Golden Joy series

Golden Joy Series

The following is extracted from email correspondence with Claude Smith and used with permission.  I like the way it follows on from my last post about Joan Miró.

I’ve been thinking about joy a lot this year … and particularly the joy of painting, and the function of painting in today’s world.

Painting has mostly been reduced to decoration or design.  Even when it’s sophisticated decoration or design it doesn’t take you very far.  In the history of art, particularly in Western art, where do we find examples of joyful painting?  Particularly in the last 50-100 years?  (I’m not talking about whimsical, or jokey painting … I mean full-on expressions of joy).  Which artists have managed to create what clearly reads as joyful painting?

My most profound experience of encountering paintings that exude joy came at the Pompidou Center in Paris about 20 years ago.  I stepped into the Miró Room and found myself spontaneously dancing and jumping for joy (really!), being surrounded by the buoyant spirit that came through his work.  This is the power of art!  And how rare!

When it comes to painting these days, there is a need to transcend the cynical and ironic, the sentimental and representational, and especially the commodification of art.

That’s where I’m headed.  To embody joy and somehow convey it through painting.

– Claude Smith

claude smith at the artisans’ gallery

ineffable: joy