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Clarence H. White

Clarence White

Edward Steichen. Portrait of Clarence White, 1908. Alfred Stieglitz Collection. © 2018 The Estate of Edward Steichen/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Also known as
Clarence Hudson White
Date of birth
Date of death

Clarence White, an influential photographer and founder of a photography school, created resolutely tranquil work that often featured his family and friends, whom he roused from bed for early morning sessions. White took up photography while working as a bookkeeper in Newark, Ohio. Self-taught, he participated in the First Philadelphia Photographic Salon in 1898, only to serve on the jury himself the very next year, alongside Gertrude Käsebier and F. Holland Day. In 1904 he took up photography full-time, and two years later he moved his family to New York, in part to be closer to the influential Photo-Secession group. This group, founded by Alfred Stieglitz, aimed to advance the acceptance of photography as an artistic medium, challenging the accepted ideas of what constituted a successful photograph.

Photo-Secession leader Stieglitz included White’s photographs in six issues of his journal Camera Work and devoted the July 1908 issue to him exclusively. But, like many others, White became disillusioned with Stieglitz’s authoritarian leadership. As one sign of his break with the Photo-Secession, White opened a school in his name in New York in 1914—the first school for photography as an artistic practice—that would last until 1940 (under the direction of White’s widow, Jane White) and give rise to a photography study program at Ohio University that continues there as the School of Visual Communication. Having largely given up making photographs in his later years, Clarence White mentored many pathbreaking young talents, including Anton Bruehl, Dorothea Lange, Paul Outerbridge, and (no relation) Margaret Bourke-White.

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