His protagonists, elegant children and grave young ladies, act with the utmost decorum in cultivated nature. He was the most Japanese of all the artist-photographers and a virtuoso arranger of simple shapes. They were at ease in flowery meadows or strolling among the trees. They were not simply personifications of ideal Youth and Beauty, although they were that too.
“In 1895, White exhibited his first photos at the Camera Club of Fostoria, Ohio, and by 1898 he had met F.H. Day and Stieglitz. His star continued to rise, having exhibitions in 1899 at the Camera Club of NY and at the Boston Camera Club, and he also exhibited in the London Photographic Salon organised by The Linked Ring. In 1900 White was elected to membership in The Linked Ring and in 1901 White and 10 others to become “charter members” of the Photo-Secession… Due to financial constraints, he was only able to create about 8 photographs each month, either very early in the morning, after he finished work as a bookkeeper, or at the weekend. Some of his most memorable images were created at this time, before his move to NY in 1906. As Cathleen A. Branciaroli and William Inness Homer observe in “The Artistry of Clarence H. White”, “White is most significant in the history of photography because, in his early years, he redefined the nature of picture-making, creating a distinctly modern idiom for his own time…. He reduced his compositions to very simple elements of form, and by experimenting with principles of design derived largely from Whistler and Japanese prints, he created a personal style that was unique for photography.”
His “masterful reinterpretation of the possibilities of light and the photographic medium done with artistic intent” allowed him to develop this personal mythology. He learned how to visualise his subjects in his imagination, before rendering them by drawing in light. His unique prints, made in a variety of processes (platinum, gum-platinum, palladium, gum-palladium, gum, glycerin developed platinum, cyanotype and hand-coated platinum) with the same image sometimes printed using different processes, celebrate “pure photography”, a cerebral, ethereal emanation of pure light and form.
With American Cubist Max Weber, after White broke with Stieglitz, he began the first modern school of photography inviting Coburn, Strand and others to lecture with the first generation of proto-modernists globally. Excerpts from Artblart.com
Doty, Robert M. Photo-secession: Photography As a Fine Art. N.Y: Eastman, 1960. plate XII.
Kruse, Margret. Kunstphotographie Um 1900: D. Sammlung Ernst Juhl; Hamburg: Museum für Kunst u. Gewerbe, 1989 pl. 904
Marien, Mary W. Photography: A Cultural History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: SunSoft Press, 2002. fig. 4.16.