Born in Ramona, Oklahoma, in 1944, Roger Minick grew up in the Ozarks of Arkansas, moved to Southern California in 1956, and entered the University of California, Berkeley, in 1964, where he graduated in 1969 with a degree in history. While at UC Berkeley, Minick began his photography career at the ASUC Studio, a student arts facility, and in 1966 he began a black and white photographic project on the land and people of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in California. Three years later, the project became Delta West (Scrimshaw Press, 1969), an award-winning book that was listed as one of “Fifty Best Books of the Year” by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1970, and from which that same year an image, “Cheng’s Hands, 1966″, was featured in Life Magazine.
Between 1965 and 1975, Minick was on staff at the ASUC Studio, serving as director from 1971 to 1975. In 1970, he began a black and white photographic project on the rural Ozarks of Arkansas, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972 to complete the series. These photographs were published in the book Hills of Home (Scrimshaw Press, 1975; Ballantine Books, 1976). Also, while at the Studio, Minick not only co-designed his own books Delta West and Hills of Home but also books by other photographers, including Margo Davis’s Antigua Black (1973), Richard Misrach’s Telegraph 3 AM (1974), and Steve Fitch’s Diesels and Dinosaurs (1976).
From 1974 through 1976, Minick worked on Southland, a project in which he photographed freeways, vernacular architecture, and made portraits of people at fast-food outlets and shopping plazas in Southern California. In 1977, he was one of five photographers selected to work on a two-year National Endowment for the Arts Photo Survey project on the Mexican American community, a project co-sponsored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The project, Espejo, generated four new photo projects for Minick: Espejo, portraits of East Los Angeles residents, made in front of street murals; Undocumented, migrant farm workers living and working on farmland near San Diego, California; Garment Workers in downtown Los Angeles; and a Mexican rodeo event called Charro in Riverside, California.
In 1980, Minick began work on Sightseer, his first photographic series in color. Images from this series were included in the hardcover book and major traveling exhibition American Photographers and the National Parks, sponsored by the National Parks Foundation and published by Viking. An image from the Sightseer series was also included in The Oakland Museum’s 1989 exhibition Picturing California, which traveled nationally and featured Minick’s “Woman at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park, CA 1980″ on the cover of the catalogue. In 2000, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art featured the same image on the cover of their catalogue for the exhibition Made in California.
From 1981 through 1985, Minick took color photographs in enclosed shopping for a project he called The New Main Street. Also, in 1981 he was commissioned to make a series of color photographs of the interior of the newly renovated Paramount Theater in Oakland, California, which resulted in the book The Oakland Paramount. In 1984, a selection of Minick’s work was included in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s traveling exhibition and hardcover book Photography in California: 1945-1980. Between 1987 and 1989, Minick began a color series photographing people on the streets of San Francisco which he called StreetWork.
In 1984, Minick entered the graduate art program at the University of California, Davis, where his MFA graduation show in 1986 consisted of both a series of paintings and a series of color photographs. For the next twenty-five years Minick taught photography throughout Northern California, including San Francisco State University, Sacramento State University, San Francisco City College, and the Academy of Art University of San Francisco.
After graduate school, Minick worked on several long-term projects. In 1996, for a project he calls American Biographics, he began photographing in black and white the American Landscape, with particular emphasis on the precarious balance between the natural and the man-made. During this time he also worked on a series he called Perambulations, which concentrated more broadly on often ironic scenes and situations from American life. Also, concurrently, Minick created a series of mixed-media works on canvas, wood and inside glass-covered boxes which combined his own photographs with found images, text and miscellaneous objects. From 1998 to 2003, Minick photographed widely with the inexpensive Holga camera which, because of its plastic lens, is known for its idiosyncratic vignetting, focusing and halation of light. Starting in 2006, Minick switched from analog to digital, and over the next few years experimented extensively making manipulated prints using Photoshop. More recently, the iPhone and its infinite array of apps has become one of his favorite means of making images.
In 2010, Minick founded Perambulation Press, a self-publishing venture which has allowed him to turn several of his recent photo projects into self-published books. Recent examples include: Cell People, a series of photographs in color of people using their cellphones; Seen from Train, a black and white photo-essay documenting the experience of traveling across America by train; The Eternal Stare, close-up black and white studies of Greco-Roman stone heads from European and American museums; The Parthenon Marbles, black and white studies of the so-called Elgin Marbles at the British Museum; EyeEurope, color iPhone images from two road-trips around Western Europe; EyeRamblings, black and white iPhone images taken on road trips around the United States and Western Europe; and Fifty, a survey of fifty photo projects Minick worked on over the span of fifty years. All of these books can be seen here.