Minor White, Chinatown, San Francisco, 1953, California Historical Society, reproduced with permission of the Minor White Archive, Princeton University Art Museum, Copywrite Trustees of Princeton University

Minor White Exhibit at California Historical Society

While still closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope that the new exhibition of San Francisco Photographs by Minor White,  we hope that ferry riders will soon be able to visit the California Historical Society.

Shortly after completing a tour of duty in the South Pacific, photographer Minor White spent the late 1940s teaching at the California School of Fine Arts (today’s San Francisco Art Institute).

During those years he photographed San Francisco extensively, capturing a city in the midst of a postwar boom. The photographs are at once sophisticated abstract compositions and socially astute documents that picture a growing, rapidly modernizing, and more demographically diverse San Francisco.

White photographed African Americans in the Fillmore District, previously inhabited by Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during the war.

In the Financial District, he saw a new class of office workers—women.

All throughout postwar San Francisco he saw construction as the Victorian Gold Rush city gave way to trucks, freeways, and newly poured cement sidewalks.

This exhibition is drawn exclusively from the more than 400 photographs White gave to the California Historical Society in 1957.

“Minor White set out to document every part of San Francisco, from the Embarcadero to the Pacific Ocean,” says Erin Garcia California Historical Society’s Director of Exhibitions. “Though less introspective than his best-known work, his catalogue of the city revealed social undercurrents even as it focused primarily on the built enviroment.”