Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971)

(1937 Louisville Flood)
In the spirit of today I wanted to tell you about an amazing photojournalist who was famous for her ability to work in a more socially committed documentary mode.
She replaced heroic grandeur found in her earlier images of industrial power with the candidness born of her contact with the homeless and poor during the Great Depression.
She not only made strides in the world of photojournalism, but she opened the gates for females in the industry.
Margaret Bourke-White began her career as an advertising and industrial photographer in Cleveland in 1927. She developed a modernist approach, with dramatic use of perspective, light, and shadow on hard edged industrial shapes, to create photographs that merged fact with the potent language of abstraction.
From 1929 to 1936 Bourke-White worked in New York City as associate editor of Fortune magazine. In November of 1936 Henry Luce, encouraged by the success of his earlier magazines Time and Fortune, introduced a photographically illustrated weekly magazine named LIFE. She was subsequently hired as the magazine's first female photojournalist and the magazine's inaugural issue was about the Fort Peck Dam in Montana.
The first issue of LIFE exceeded expectations and the magazine became a publishing phenomenon. Before the advent of television, LIFE reached an unparallel status in American society as a source of information and entertainment. (I am personally a collector of this magazine---my favorite being the Jackson 5 cover, and the space landing cover.)
Margaret Bourke-White was a first of many.
She was the first female war correspondent and the first woman to be allowed to work in combat zones during WWII. In 1941, she traveled to the Soviet Union just as Germany broke its pact of non-aggression. She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when German forces invaded. I could seriously keep going. This woman was a force to be reckoned with armed with a camera.

The portraits she took throughout the depression, our industrial prowess, and the many wars is a sort of mirror to today in many ways. I look forward to a brighter richer future with a new government order. We can't expect overnight changes, and things will get better.
We got the change we demanded.
And the times they are a changin'.