Selective Focus: Tim White

This week in Selective Focus, we feature Tim White, who curated the previous iteration of Selective Focus – photo submissions based on a weekly theme. Tim is a photographer, writer, and proponent of the arts, and has worked on several collaborative projects in his short time in Duluth.

TW: I’ve been making photographs for about the past seven years, having lost my previous practice as a painter to solvent exposure. There were a few dormant years during this time that followed a series of personal crises, and I recently returned to photography after moving to Duluth almost two years ago. I appreciate filmic images (both moving and still), but work mostly — due to the chemistry — with digital capture, then mediate these until they better reflect what I felt when taking the initial shot. I don’t believe in pursuing a personal “style,” though I’m glad when viewers note a poetic quality to my pictures. I admire poetry’s ability to employ elements with conventional meanings (words) toward more ephemeral ends, and hope in a similar way that my work isn’t limited by the literality of the objects I depict.

Tim White, untitled (tulips), Archival inkjet print, 2013

Tim White, untitled (tulips), Archival inkjet print, 2013

Photography’s rewards differ from my previous practice in that a camera compels you to engage the world (as opposed to working in some isolated garret). This engagement has broadened my interest in viewing art as a means of building community; whether that’s a community of people likewise pursuing art, or more importantly a public that responds to works of art collectively. I’d like to create a climate where the audience’s ability to contribute their meanings are as eminent as those of so-called artists. This was the goal of my tenure editing Selective Focus; to underplay our region’s abundant natural assets, and foreground instead the ordinary, shared doings of real people.

Tim White, untitled (still life, salt & pepper), Archival inkjet print,  2013

Tim White, untitled (still life, salt & pepper), Archival inkjet print, 2013

Photography is challenging in that there’s a lot of work in this medium that isn’t challenging. Given what some deem “professional,” and the democratized image capture capabilities of phones, I’m glad to see so many people with the tools to make the sort of images I embrace — pictures of everyday things they love. Still, mere navel-gazing often prevails over an approach of discernment. I love working in this vibrant place where venues and patrons are committed to a more diverse and passionate visual, literary, and musical culture — one that could only further benefit from cohering disparate arts organizations, attaining a more constructively critical arts culture, and cultivating stewardship of the vast creative resources here in the Arrowhead.

tim_whiteWithin that, I bristle when my images are saddled with reductive descriptions like “melancholic,” as though their occasional and superficial darkness were just some brooding, affected posture. I work from a strong sense of impermanence and probably an over-susceptibility to loss, though my primary stance is guarded hope. My works are attempts to hold moments while recognizing that effort’s futility. I want this tenuously-held position to inform an audience’s response to my work, and ideally compel dialogues among persons likewise navigating lives of retaining, and of letting go.

Tim White, untitled (dish towels), Archival inkjet print,  2013

Tim White, untitled (dish towels), Archival inkjet print, 2013

My photography website is I’m also a writer, and am grateful to have given some needed attention to the arts of our region. Some of that work can be found at Tim White: Writings, and 70+ short essays for PDD are archived here: Tim White at Perfect Duluth Day. I administer the “You are not a dinosaur” collective, and still use what’s left of Flickr to curate exhibitions of others’ work (“Useless, useless“). The Tweed Museum owns some of my photographs, though you’d need to request viewing these. I’m incredibly gratified that the Duluth Public Library system, the Walker Art Center, the Tweed and Weisman Museums, and Minneapolis Public Libraries have copies of my recently produced book “In and Out of Context” that can be easily checked out, and I’m always open to studio visits; b.y.o.b.

Tim White, untitled (trees in rain), Archival inkjet print,  2014

Tim White, untitled (trees in rain), Archival inkjet print, 2014

I have a current exhibition in the Steffl Gallery of the Duluth Art Institute that is open until Sept. 2. The show includes several related events including a “21 Poets/21 Seconds” poetry night hosted by Bob Monahan and PDD’s Paul Lundgren on July 7, an “Ephemeral Poetry” day for families July 23, a “Gallery Talk” Aug. 2, and an Aug. 25 performance by Gaelynn Lea. Beyond that, I’ve been trying to find a garden amenable to a late-Winter outdoor project that gives images to the weather (while flowers and food flourish around the withered pictures), and I’m always looking to create interdisciplinary collaborative efforts like my recent book. I’d also like to find broader representation in regional commercial galleries, although my images aren’t typical fare. My Dad once suggested that I “might try taking pictures that people like;” an approach to art I’ve never followed.

Tim White, untitled (shoulder, bear), Archival inkjet print, 2012

Tim White, untitled (shoulder, bear), Archival inkjet print, 2012

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