Clarence Hudson White, born in Ohio in 1871, was an American photographer known for his muted and toned down portraits of women and children but also, in the latter part of his life, as a teacher of photography and not without influence.
After White finished his schooling he took a job as an accountant in his father’s Ohio grocery business and at the age of 22 married in 1893. Always interested in artistic pursuits he essentially taught himself photography, photographing constantly. White’s talented work was initially recognised in 1898 at the First Philadelphia Photographic Salon and the following year he was asked to judge it.
In 1902 White helped found Photo-Secession, a group of photographers that held the then contentious view that what was important about a photograph was not what was particularly in front of the camera but what the photographer/artist did to the image to achieve their subjective vision.
After a few years of making a living as a traveling portraitist, White moved with his family in 1906 to New York City. A year later he was hired to teach the first photography course to be given at Columbia University, a circumstance that enabled him to renounce commercial work. In 1910 he and several friends—including Day, Käsebier, and the painter Max Weber—began a summer school, held first on Seguin Island in Maine and later in East Canaan, Connecticut. Encouraged by his friends, White in 1914 opened the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York City. He also taught at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. His influence on the next generation of photographers was notable; many among his students—who included Laura Gilpin, Margaret Bourke-White, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner, and Doris Ulmann who all went on to become successful photographers.
White died of a heart attack while in Mexico City in 1925 but his photographs often featuring, in the words of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, ‘genteel subject matter and subtle lighting effects… came to epitomise the Pictorialist approach to photography at the turn of the century’.
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