Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 3

April 26th, 2012 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

Minor White Letters To Philip Hyde 3

Stick To One Style. Scope Is Fatal To Recognition…

Do you agree or disagree?

(Continued from the blog post, “Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 2.”)

Note On Minor White’s Letters And The San Francisco Art Institute

Late Sun Near Point Pedro, Pacific Ocean, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde. Scan of original hand made vintage black and white print. Photograph made on a California School of Fine Arts field trip.

Philip Hyde first met Minor White in the 1946 Photography Summer Session taught by Ansel Adams at the renowned California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Ansel Adams soon after made Minor White lead instructor of the new photography program, which was the first to train photographers for a non-commercial creative photography full-time profession. Philip Hyde enrolled in the full time day student photography course taught by Minor White in 1947 and earned his certificate of completion in the Spring of 1950. His group was the second full-time class to go through the school. The letter correspondence between Philip Hyde and Minor White began shortly after in May 1950. The letters of Minor White to Philip Hyde are clearly responses to letters from Philip Hyde to Minor White. However, the first three letters from Philip Hyde to Minor White are missing. For more related background on Minor White, Alfred Stieglitz, Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams and other points in the history of photography see the blog post, “Minor White–Philip Hyde Letters.”

Letter From Minor White To Philip Hyde

(From Philip Hyde’s correspondence file with Minor White. Used with acknowledgement from the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, copyright by the Trustees of Princeton University.)

“Make A Name For Yourself Faster, And Money Faster By Sticking To One Style Until You Catch On With The Public. Scope… Is Fatal To Recognition…”

30 Nov 1950

Dear Phil,

Say I want to apologize for being so remote the other morning. I was under the impression that you were returning that afternoon and could spend more time to talk and look at pictures. Sorry as hell.

Must say that your pictures looked better than ever. Clean as Ansel’s and a slant of your own seeing. Was amused at Pete’s choices—as I have been several times lately when the opportunity came up for him to pick from other people’s work. Still the same seeing as his Filmore project—think the years out of photography will be better for him than anything else.

The Albert Bender Grants-In-Aid foundation is including photography this year. Ansel Adams is chairman of the committee and I am serving on it also—so is Imogen Cunningham. Ansel is so confident that you will hit the Guggenheim that he would just as soon not consider any application you might make for the Bender. I am still seeing to it that you get an application—and leave the rest up to you. It’s 1200 bucks for creative photography or some project that can include creative photography.

When I get in a philosophical mood (which at the moment I am as far from as possible—printing all day) wonder if you will continue the approach to photography you now have for how many years. You are starting a career dead center in the same tradition Ansel stands for. Starting as positively few of my students have done. You earned the position, I can add happily. If I just can curb my patience, it will be heartening to see how you grow. And in a way I envy your present mastery of the medium, it is full and fulfilling, and your pictures show you are creating freely. Pursue the vein as long as it lasts. The tradition you are following is a fertile one. You can make a name for yourself faster, and money faster by sticking to one style until you catch on with the public. Scope, that I am always chasing, is fatal to recognition I gather. At least so I am told. But that is hardly anything to keep me from photographing everything I can in as appropriate a manor as I can manage, NO?

Cheerio, old bean, best regards to ‘wife and kids.’ Sorry I am in no mood to rave on. I probably ought to frame the folded fine prints. One of them is only a hair off success.

Minor [Hand written signature]

(Emphasis on the above bold sentence added by Landscape Photography Blogger.)

(Continued in the blog post, “Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 4.”)

Do you agree that scope is fatal to recognition? Does this still apply today? Please share your thoughts…



  1. Hi Charles, thank you for sharing your strategy. I believe it is a valid one, especially if it works for you. I notice other prominent photographers taking that type of approach to “branding” too. That’s an interesting observation about “Late Sun Near Point Pedro.” I’ll put it on the “possible postcard list.”

  2. H William says:

    Personally I think that trying to do too much in the way of difference can be a problem in getting recognition as a photographer. I know I need to develop a style that resonates throught all, or at least most of, my images. I think that alternating between color and black and white is not that much of a problem, but going from traditional to garish is. Just a personal thought

Leave a Reply