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The Life and Contributions of Photographer Margaret


Margaret Bourke-White was born on June 14th, 1904, in the
Bronx, New York. Her father, Joseph White, was an inventor
and engineer, and her mother, Minnie Bourke, was forward
thinking woman, especially for the early 1900's. When
Margaret was very young, the family moved to a rural suburb
in New Jersey, so that Joseph could be closer to his job.
Margaret, along with her sister Ruth, were taught from an
early age by their mother. Her mother was strict in
monitoring their outside influences, limiting everything
from fried foods to funny papers. When Margaret was eight,
her father took her inside a foundry to watch the
manufacture of printing presses. While in the foundry, she
saw some molten iron poured. This event filled Margaret
with joy, and this memory would be burned in her mind for
years to come. Joseph White's chief recreation activity
suited his scientific mind; her was an amateur
photographer. The White's home was filled with his
photographs. If something interested Margaret's father, it
also interested her. She pretended as a girl to take
photographs with an empty cigar box. Although she claimed
that she never took a photograph until after her father's
death. Her cousin Florence remembers her helping her father
to develop prints in his bathtub. In 1917, her father
suffered a stroke. By 1919, he had recovered enough for the
family to take a trip to Niagara Falls and Canada. While
there, she began to make notes on his photographs, and
helped him set up shots on several occasions.
In 1921, she began college at Rutgers, then moved to the
University of Michigan, then
to Cornell University, from which she graduated in 1927. As
a freshman at Michigan, she began taking pictures for the
yearbook, and within a year was offered the seat of
photography editor. Instead of taking the position, she
married a engineering graduate student, Everett Chapman,
and abandoned photography to pursue married life. When the
marriage fell apart two years later, she moved to Cornell,
where she again took up photography. After she graduated in
1927, she moved to Cleveland, where her family was living,
to start her career with a portfolio full of architecture
pictures she had taken while at Cornell. She called upon
several architects who were Cornell alumni for jobs. After
the success of her first job, she founded the Bourke-White
studio in her one room apartment. Then, money she made from
shooting elegant home and gardens by day was spent on
photographing steel mills at night and on the weekends. The
circulation of her portfolio brought her to the attention
of Cleveland's biggest industrial tycoons. After a few
failures, she was successful at capturing the Otis Steel
mill. From this, she made enough money to move her studio
to the Terminal Tower skyscraper. In the spring of 1929,
she received a telegram from Henry R. Luce, a publisher who
was planning a new weekly magazine called Time. Luce
invited her to come to New York so they could meet, and so
Bourke-White could see what Time was to accomplish. She was
unimpressed, but Luce and his editor Parker Lloyd- Smith
were also planning a new business magazine that would make
use of dramatic industrial photographs. This was perfect
for Bourke-White. She accepted their offer as a staff
photographer. In July 1929, the decision was made to
publish the magazine, called Fortune. Bourke-White began
working on stories for the premier issue, eight months
away. The first lead story was to feature Swift & Co., a
hog processing plant. She worked with Lloyd-Smith until he
became too sick from the stench to continue. After
Bourke-White was finished photographing the hogs, she left
most of her camera equipment to be burned. Her
documentation of this was a step in the development of the
photo essay, and Bourke-White's style.
In 1930, Russia was in the midst of an industrial and
cultural revolution. It's doors
were all but closed to westerners, especially
photographers. Bourke-White was attracted to Russia, but
her editors at Fortune doubted that she would gain access.
They instead sent her to Germany to photograph the emerging
industry there. She decided that she would go on her own,
and after six weeks of waiting, her visa cleared the Soviet
bureaucracy. She loaded up her cameras along with trunks of
food, and set off on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia was
full of red tape for Bourke-White. Fortunately for her, an
official was so impressed with her portfolio that he
granted her a permit requiring all Soviet citizens to aid
and assist Bourke-White whenever she needed it. Over the
next five weeks, she traveled all over Russia, capturing
dams, factories, farms, and their workers. She had taken
nearly three thousand negatives of Russia, the first
complete documentary of the newly emerging Soviet Russia.
In the summer of 1931, she was invited back to Russia by
the government. This time through Russia, she concentrated
not on machinery, but on people. The New York Times Sunday
Magazine published six article that she had written about
the trip, along with her photographs. In the summer of
1932, Bourke-White went back to Russia, this time to film.
This trip, however, was mainly a failure, since Bourke-
White was not technically adept and hadn't learned the
skill of seeing in motion. As a result, her films did not
have the same feeling her photographs had. She tried to
sell the footage to a Hollywood studio, but they would not
buy it because of their fear that it would be seen as
In 1936, Bourke-white toured the south with the writer
Erskine Caldwell to supply the pictures for the book You
Have Seen Their Faces. The book was a photo documentary of
the poor, rural people of the south. Later in 1936, Henry
Luce decided to launch a picture magazine, spurred on by
the success of European picture tabloids. In this magazine,
pictures wouldn't be subservient to the text; the pictures
would tell the story. The magazine was called Life and
Bourke-White was one of the four original photographers
hired. She covered everything from the New Deal towns
springing up in the Midwest to the growing conflict in
Europe. In early 1941, tensions were running high in
Europe, and Life asked her to return to Russia, to make a
comparison between the current Russia and the one that she
saw ten years before. Bourke-White and Caldwell entered
Russia though China. On July 22nd, the first bombs fell on
Moscow and Bourke-White was the only foreign photographer
present. The resulting pictures were a major scoop for
Bourke-White and Life. She spent the next four years
covering the European theater of war, it's leaders, and the
aftermath of the Nazi death camps. She also flew in
American bombers on their bombing raids, taking pictures of
the destruction.
After the war, in 1946, she was sent by Life to cover the
emerging countries of
Pakistan and India. She photographed Mahatma Gandhi many
times, taking her last picture of him hours before he was
assassinated. From 1950 to 1956, Bourke-White returned to
Life and covered everything from the Korean War to South
African gold mines to the Connecticut River Valley.
In 1956, Bourke-White discovered she had Parkinson's
Disease. After doing research on the disease, she believed
that it manifested itself while she was in Korea, racing
against a deadline. Gradually. the disease shut down
Bourke-White's body, and she had to learn to walk again. In
1958, a experimental procedure for easing the effects of
Parkinson's was preformed on Bourke-White. The operation
was successful, and Bourke-White resumed working for Life,
but as a writer. Her friend and colleague Alfred
Eisenstaedt was the photographer. Together they covered the
same type of surgery Bourke-White had undergone.
Bourke-White then asked the editors to put her story into
Life , but they were apprehensive. they eventually yeilded,
and the story was hugely popular. However, in 1961,
Parkinson's once again reached her right side, and another
operation was preformed. this time it was successful, but
it made speech laborious. She began writing, finishing her
autobiography, Portrait of Myself. In 1969, she entered the
hospital to begin further treatment for Parkinson's. By
this time the disease had taken over her body, and she did
not respond well to treatment. In the early summer of 1971,
Bourke-White fell and injured herself badly. This accident
was one of the great dangers of Parkinson's. Bourke-White
was confined to a hospital bed. This immobility brought on
complications, and Bourke-White died on August 21st, 1971,
at the age of sixty seven.
Margaret Bourke-White contributed many things to the world
of photography. She was a woman, doing a man's job, in a
man's world, from the foundries of Cleveland to the
battlefields in World War II. She was hailed for
accomplishing as much as she did under these circumstances.
She met little resistance from the world due to her sex,
since she was known as a famous and skilled photographer.
Her work on Fortune magazine was a step in the development
of the photo essay. She continued this idea of pictures
telling a story with her work with Erskine Caldwell on the
books You Have Seen Their Faces and Say, This is the U.S.A.
In these books, Bourke-White supplied the pictures, and
Caldwell wrote the text of the books. She also was the
first western photographer to be allowed to document
Russia's five year plan.
Margaret Bourke-White was one of the pioneering
photojournalists of the 20th century. She achieved
extraordinary things for a photographer. Because of the
times she worked in, they are made even more extraordinary
because she was a woman. She was one of the first
photographers to work on photo essays. She was the first
western photographer to be allowed in Russia. Later, she
was the only western photographer present during the
bombing of Moscow. She was an original staff photographer
for two of the most prominent magazines of her day, Fortune
and Life. She led a life full of adventure, pioneering a
new art form: photojournalism. Margaret Bourke-White was,
and still is, one of the most important photographers of
the twentieth century. 

Bourke-White, Margaret and Caldwell, Erskine. Say, Is This
The U.S.A.? Da Capo Press. New
York. 1977.
Callahan, Sean, editor. The Photographs of Margaret
Bourke-White. New York Graphic
Society. 1972.
Goldberg, Vicki. In Hot Pursuit-The Life and Times of
Margaret Bourke-White. American
Photographer. June 1986. 
Goldberg, Vicki. Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography.
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company,
Inc. Reading, Mass. 1987.

Uploader: emmaus 

EMail: emmaus@gnn.com
Language: English 

Subject: History of Photography 

Title: The life and contributions of photographer Margaret
Grade: 95%
System: College 

Age: 20 years old (when handed in) 

Country: United States
Comments: 2 1/2 pages. With Bibliography and paragraph
detailing her 

contributions to photography and women's issues.
Where I got Evil House of Cheat Address: rec.photo.darkroon


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