Today's Memory

Today’s Memory – Margaret Bourke-White

14 - 0-Margaret-Bourke-White-posing-with-equipment-she-used-for-a-mural-at-Radio-City-Music-Hall-New-York-City-self-portrait

”The beauty of the past belongs to the past”

Self-Portrait, 1943

Margaret Bourke-White

June 14, 1904, The Bronx, New York – August 27, 1971, Stamford, Connecticut


Margaret Bourke-White was an American photographer and documentary photographer, known for her extensive contributions to photojournalism. She is best known as the first female war correspondent (and the first woman permitted to work in combat zones); the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry; the first female photographer for Henry Luce’s Life magazine, where her photograph appeared on the first cover.

Her interest in photography began as a young woman’s hobby, supported by her father’s enthusiasm for cameras. In 1927 she started a commercial photography studio and began concentrating on architectural and industrial photography and accepted a job as associate editor and staff photographer of Fortune magazine (1929-1935).

Kentucky Flood, 1937
Nazi Storm Troopers’ training class, 1938


Throughout the 1930s Bourke-White went on assignments to create photo-essays in Germany and the Soviet Union, as well as the Dust Bowl in the American Midwest.

Those experiences allowed her to refine the dramatic style she had used in industrial and architectural subjects.

3 Buchenwald in April 1945

Those projects also introduced people and social issues as subject matter into her oeuvre, and she developed a compassionate humanitarian approach to such photos.

Buchenwald corpses, April 1945

In 1935 Margaret White met the Southern novelist Erskine Caldwell, to whom she was married from 1939 to 1942. The couple collaborated on three illustrated books: You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), about Southern sharecroppers; North of the Danube (1939), about life in Czechoslovakia before the Nazi takeover; and Say, Is This the U.S.A. (1941), about the industrialization of the United States.

DC-4 over Manhattan, 1939

After World War II Bourke-White traveled to India to photograph Mohandas Gandhi and record the mass migration caused by the division of the Indian subcontinent into Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan.

Ghandi a few hours before his assassination, 1948

During the Korean War she worked as a war correspondent and traveled with South Korean troops.


South African gold miners, 1950
Statue of Liberty, Harbor View 1951

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Margaret Bourke-White, working atop the Chrysler Building by Oscar Graubner






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