Minor White - Photographs New York Wednesday, October 12, 2022 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Gift of the photographer to Herbert Hamilton, 1964
    By descent to the present owner

  • Literature

    White, Mirrors, Messages, Manifestations: Photographs and Writings, 1939-1968, pl. 163

  • Catalogue Essay

    The subjects of this diptych are Robert and Mary Bourdeau. Robert Bourdeau is a Canadian photographer who began corresponding with Minor White after encountering an issue of Aperture magazine edited by White. The two began corresponding, and White became a mentor to Bourdeau. In the 1984 Minor White memorial issue of Aperture, Bourdeau wrote:

    'I first met Minor in 1959, and for about five years we engaged in informal talks concerning photography and vision. What he gave me was a way of looking at things rather than a way of working—an incentive to put down in pictorial form that thing that I loved. The principles of Minor’s philosophy, which combined the meditative approach with a high degree of disciplined craftsmanship, struck a responsive chord in me. Through him I gained a love and respect for camera work, for the landscape, and for photography’s way of seeing.’

    This diptych is part of a remarkable trove of prints given by Minor White to Herbert Hamilton, a student of White’s at the Rochester Institute of Technology in the 1950s and early 1960s. Hamilton was part of the tight-knit circle of students around White who studied photography with him, both inside and outside the classroom, and became involved with White’s curricular and extracurricular endeavors. He was recruited by White to work on Aperture magazine, for which White served as editor, and was put in charge of subscriptions and distribution and listed on the masthead from 1959 to 1961. Hamilton assisted White with the photographic workshops he conducted outside of his prescribed coursework, and Hamilton lived for a time at White’s apartment at 72 North Union Street.

    Correspondence between the two men, in the possession of Hamilton’s descendants, reveals a close and intimate relationship. The letters address the nature of their respective photographic work, cover quotidian matters pertaining to Aperture, and – on White’s side – offer the occasional poem. In 1960, Hamilton married Margaret ‘Peggy’ Clousten, and remained in Rochester to complete his studies with White at RIT before leaving for Boston in 1962 for graduate study at Boston University and to initiate his career as a professional photographer.

    Hamilton was an accomplished photographer whose work was frequently exhibited, most notably in the 1960 Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Sense of Abstraction where his photographs hung alongside those of White, Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Edmund Teske, Aaron Siskind, Ray Metzker, and others pushing the boundaries of photographic expression. A one-man exhibition of Hamilton’s work was mounted at Boston University in 1963. Several of his images were published in Aperture, from 1960 to 1970. Hamilton maintained an active career as a freelance photographer and teacher, conducting courses at Boston University and the Art Institute of Boston. The 1973 course catalogue for the latter notes that Hamilton was currently Museum Photographer for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

    Hamilton and White maintained their friendship and their correspondence well into the 1960s. Over the years, White periodically sent his protégé photographs, including the diptych offered here. He also sent Hamilton the early version of the twelve-photograph Sequence 16: Steely the Barb of Infinity present in this sale as lot 187.


Robert and Mary Bourdeau, Easter Sunday, Rochester, New York

Two gelatin silver prints, mounted together.
Each print 6 1/4 x 4 1/2 in. (15.9 x 11.4 cm)
Overall 6 1/4 x 9 in. (15.9 x 22.9 cm)

Signed and dated in pencil on the mount; signed and inscribed 'Dear Herb, Many for your two images: Bourdeau & wife, Easter Sunday, Rochester '64' in pencil on the verso.

$3,000 - 5,000 

Sold for $3,024

Contact Specialist

Sarah Krueger
Head of Department, Photographs, New York

Vanessa Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs and Deputy Chairwoman, Americas


New York Auction 12 October 2022