He was basically a contemplative. Everybody knows that, but very few people in photography seem to understand what that really means.
It means that there are more important matters in his life than making pictures, and more important goals in photography, as he understood it, than making good ones.
Photography was not only not necessary to him. It was in fact something of an encumbrance. “Working among esoteric or spiritual lives, you come to the realization that your medium can’t keep up with you, you can go beyond it and a decision has to be made—or you have to keep your eyes open and see what decisions are being made for you.”
In his decision to stay with photography White was not unlike the bodhisattva, who chooses to stay and help his fellow creatures. “I realized that photography was my mouthpiece, this was the way I talked. Photography meant writing about it, editing it, teaching and making it.
It was a service thing now—a totally different attitude.
Only recently have photographers started coming out of the darkroom in any numbers and many of them are still blinking. In his teaching methods, he shows, rather than told, what he had in mind.
“Poets, actors, musicians, artists, unlike photographers, would have no trouble with what he was saying but then that was precisely why he had to keep trying to say it to photographers.