In 1941, the Oregon Art Project of the Works Project Administration wrote Portland’s Commissioner of Public Works and proposed that this photo of Portland’s Front Avenue be the basis of a painting for his office. The photo was taken two years earlier by Minor White (1908-1976), then employed as “creative photographer” for Oregon’s Federal Art Project, looking south from the Burnside Bridge. The painting apparently was not made before the WPA closed down, so White’s photograph preserved a view that was soon lost when the buildings were demolished and Harbor Drive opened. White went on to a distinguished career in photography, teaching, and writing. He and others included this iconic view in later retrospectives of his work, but its presence at PARC reminds us of its New Deal origins.
Our guest contributor, Dr. Kenneth Hawkins, compiled the first archival inventory of Minor White’s WPA negatives at the Oregon Historical Society in 1979, before moving (as did White) from Portland to Rochester, New York, to pursue photography and studies. He joined the National Archives in 1993. Recently he has updated the inventory and mapped it to White materials in other repositories, now including PARC.