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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Clarence H. White

Born: Clarence Hudson White 
Other: Clarence White 
Joint: White & Stieglitz 
Dates:  1871, 8 April - 1925, 8 July
Born:  US, OH, West Carlisle
Died:  Mexico
Active:  US
American photographer. Early on he was a pictorialist and elected to the ‘Linked Ring‘ in 1900 and a member of the ‘Photo-Secession‘. He worked closely with the Photo-Secession photographers and taught photography at university level. He was a master platinum printer, rarely using anything else. He set up his own schools of photography in New York, Maine and Mexico City and was a founder of the Pictorial Photographers of America.
[Courtesy of Pam Roberts].
Clarence Hudson White was a co-founder of the magazine Platinum Print. A Journal of personal expression, which was published intermittently between 1913 and 1917.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Clarence H. White
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

White played a leading role in pictorial photography both during and after the heyday of the Photo-Secession. His work was highly visible in Secession exhibitions and publications. White also became widely known as a photographic educator, teaching at established institutions and his own school. His pictorial photographs always featured soft-focus effects and a quiet, personal mood.
Clarence Hudson White was born in West Carlisle, Ohio, on April 8, 1871. Four years later, his family moved to nearby Newark, where he grew up. After finishing high school, White became a bookkeeper at a local wholesale grocer and worked there until 1904.
White made his first photographs in 1893, and by four years later was receiving awards for his artistry. Eighteen ninety-eight was an important year for him; his work was accepted at the first Philadelphia Photographic Salon, he organized the Newark Camera Club, and he traveled east to meet Alfred Stieglitz in New York. In 1899, he was the subject of one-person exhibitions at both the Camera Club of New York and the Boston Camera Club. Over the next few years, his star continued to rise. Stieglitz included four photogravures by him in Camera Notes, White juried salons in Chicago and Philadelphia, and he was admitted to London’s prestigious Linked Ring Brotherhood. F. Holland Day included his work in the New School of American Photography show, which was hung at the Royal Photographic Society, London, in 1900, and at the Photo-Club de Paris, the following year.
Stieglitz designated White as one of the founding member of the Photo-Secession in 1902, when the group’s premiere show was presented at New York’s National Arts Club. Subsequently, White’s pictures were seen in all the major Secession exhibitions, including the 1910 show at Buffalo’s Albright Art Gallery, where he was the best represented American. His work was also presented in Camera Work, which featured twenty-five of his richly printed photogravures between 1903 and 1910.
White produced largely figure studies of family members, sensitively posed both indoors and out, with simple props like books, mirrors, and glass balls. The homespun subjects and subtle tones of his platinum prints reflected the photographer’s gentle, Midwestern nature. Beginning in 1897, they were extensively exhibited in this country and Europe, seen in shows in Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Dresden, Glasgow, Hamburg, Leeds, London, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Rochester, San Francisco, Syracuse, Toronto, Turin, and Vienna.
White attempted to make his living as a photographer after quitting his bookkeeping job in 1904. Still based in Ohio, he became a traveling portrait photographer, primarily in the Midwest. However, after only a few years of mixed success, he moved to New York in 1906, where he took up teaching. In 1907, Columbia University’s Teachers College hired him on as a lecturer, where he became acquainted with the artist Arthur Wesley Dow. White also taught at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, and in 1910 established his own summer school of photography on an island in Maine. Four years later, he opened the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York, which, over many years, resided at various Manhattan locations. White promoted the integration of professional methods and pictorial aesthetics, inspiring such students as Paul Outerbridge, Jr., Ralph Steiner, and Margaret Watkins to produce creative commercial work.
White provided illustrations for some popular magazines, such as McClure’s and Everybody’s, as well as frontispieces for a few books. His most significant illustration job, however, was the 1904 poetry book Songs of All Seasons by Ira Billman, White’s uncle. Billman chose over forty images by his nephew, primarily landscapes and figure studies, and dedicated the publication to him.
After the disintegration of the Photo-Secession around 1910, White carried on the banner of pictorialism for the next decade and a half. He severed his relationship with Stieglitz and, in 1913, helped Edward R. Dickson commence the periodical Platinum Print. Three years later, he organized a new group, the Pictorial Photographers of America (PPA), for which he served as its first president. The PPA promoted inclusiveness and education, circulating popular exhibitions and publishing five volumes of its annual, Pictorial Photography in America, during the 1920s. In 1920, White also helped found the Art Center, a group of New York-based arts organizations that worked toward uniting art and industry.
In 1919, White presented a solo show of his work at the Erich Art Galleries in New York. Six years later, he was on a photographic trip in Mexico with some of his students when he suffered an aneurism of the aorta; he died in a Mexico City hospital on July 7, 1925. Friends and family members kept the Clarence H. White School of Photography running until 1943. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Biography provided by Focal Press 
A self-taught photographer of soft-focus images of family life in rural Ohio, White joined with Steiglitz in 1902 to help form the Photo-Secession. The first teacher of photography at Columbia University, New York in 1907, he founded the Clarence White School of Photography in 1914. An influential teacher, whose students included Bourke-White, Gilpin, Lange, Outerbridge, Steiner, and Ulmann, he became the first president of the Pictorial Photographers of America in 1916 in reaction against Stieglitz’ shift to straight photography. 
(Author: Garie Waltzer - Photographer and consultant) 
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 

Further research

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Gertrude Käsebier
Clarence H. White and Mother 
Family history 
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch.

Exhibitions on this website

Theme: Pictorialism
ThumbnailThe Clarence H. White School of Photography 
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The Warren and Margot Coville Collection at the Library of Congress.

Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
 Go to website
The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA has a biography on this photographer. [Scroll down the page on this website as the biography may not be immediately visible.] Go to website
The International Photographers Hall of Fame has provided a biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.103 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.556-558 
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.231 [Includes a well written short biography on Clarence H. White with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.471 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.271-272 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.264 
• Newhall, Beaumont 1982 The History of Photography - Fifth Edition (London: Secker & Warburg) [One or more photographs by Clarence H. White are included in this classic history.] 
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.50 [Analyzes a single photograph by Clarence H. White.] 


Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line. 

In the 1990 survey of 535 American photographic collections Clarence H. White was represented in 50 of the collections. Source: Andrew H. Eskind & Greg Drake (eds.) 1990 Index to American Photographic Collections [Second Enlarged Edition] (Boston, Massachusetts: G.K. Hall & Co.) 
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