Jan 17, 2007

Matchstick Cove, San Mateo County, California

Song Without Words

Matchstick Cove, San Mateo County, California

1947, printed 1949

Minor White

(American, 1908–1976)

Gelatin silver print

Image: 9 x 11.7 cm (3 9/16 x 4 5/8 in.); Matted: 35.6 x 45.7 cm (14 x 18 in.)

Andrew R. and Martha Holden Jennings Fund 1993.12



A leading advocate for the expressive powers of photography, White transformed everyday experiences into sublime statements, even in small images such as this sharply focused contact print. The elevated vantage point and expansive vista greatly reduce the sense of scale, leaving a carefully selected, abstracted detail of a favorite subject—the meeting of tidal waves and rugged cliffs on the California coast. The exquisite tonal values convey the subtly shifting effects of light and atmosphere. A bank of fog rolling in from the ocean both defines and softens the jagged contours of the landscape. The absence of a transition between the surging sea and the towering bluffs leaves little room for human presence, and the image becomes a metaphor for isolation and loneliness. Known for his complex and romantic writing style, White once explained that "the photograph acts as a symbol . . . for something that is beyond the subject photographed."

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