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. While at UC Berkeley , Minick began working in photography 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. 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 photographic project on the rural Ozarks of Arkansas, receiving a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972 to complete the project. These photographs were published in the book Hills of Home (Scrimshaw Press, 1975; Ballantine Books, 1976). During the Studio years, Minick co-designed his own books, Delta West and Hills of Home, as well as other photographic books, 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 a project on Southern California, the Southland Series, for which he photographed freeways, vernacular architecture, and made portraits of people at fast-food outlets and shopping plazas. 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 two new series of photographs by Minick: one on Mexican American residents in East Los Angeles and a second on undocumented workers living and working on farmland near San Diego.
In 1980, Minick began work on his first photographic series in color, the Sightseer Series. 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 with Scarf at Inspiration Point, Yosemite National Park, CA 1980” on the cover of the catalogue. In 2000, the Los Angeles Museum of Art featured the same image on the cover of their catalogue for the exhibition Made in California.
From 1981 through 1985, Minick made a series of color photographs in enclosed shopping malls entitled The New Main Street, and 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. Minick’s work has also been 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 made a series of color photographs of people in ironic or surreal situations he calls Perambulations.
In 1984, Minick entered graduate school 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. Over the past twenty-five years, Minick has taught photography throughout northern California, including the ASUC Studio at UC Berkeley, the Ansel Adams Yosemite Workshops, San Francisco State University, Sacramento State University and San Francisco City College. He presently teaches at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
For the past several years, Minick has 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. Returning to the Perambulations series in 1998, but this time working in black and white, Minick has concentrated more broadly on unique scenes and objects from American life. Also, during this time, Minick has created a series of mixed-media works on canvas, wood and inside glass-covered boxes which combine his own photographs with found images, text and miscellaneous objects. In another recent project, Minick has photographed with an inexpensive plastic lens camera called a Holga, known for its idiosyncratic vignetting, focusing and halation of light.