Mb-White Essay, Research Paper
Margaret Bourke White Margaret Bourke-White was born on June 14th, 1904, in the Bronx, New York. Herfather, Joseph White, was an inventor and engineer, and her mother, Minnie Bourke, wasforward thinking woman, especially for the early 1900’s. When Margaret was very young, thefamily 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. Hermother was strict in monitoring their outside influences, limiting everything from friedfoods to funny papers. When Margaret was eight, her father took her inside a foundry towatch the manufacture of printing presses. While in the foundry, she saw some molten ironpoured. This event filled Margaret with joy, and this memory would be burned in her mind foryears to come. Joseph White’s chief recreation activity suited his scientific mind; her wasan amateur photographer. The White’s home was filled with his photographs. If somethinginterested Margaret’s father, it also interested her. She pretended as a girl to takephotographs with an empty cigar box. Although she claimed that she never took a photographuntil after her father’s death. Her cousin Florence remembers her helping her father todevelop prints in his bathtub. In 1917, her father suffered a stroke. By 1919, he hadrecovered enough for the family to take a trip to Niagara Falls and Canada. While there, shebegan 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 toCornell University, from which she graduated in 1927. As a freshman at Michigan, she begantaking pictures for the yearbook, and within a year was offered the seat of photographyeditor. Instead of taking the position, she married a engineering graduate student, EverettChapman, and abandoned photography to pursue married life. When the marriage fell apart twoyears later, she moved to Cornell, where she again took up photography. After she graduatedin 1927, she moved to Cleveland, where her family was living, to start her career with aportfolio full of architecture pictures she had taken while at Cornell. She called uponseveral architects who were Cornell alumni for jobs. After the success of her first job, shefounded the Bourke-White studio in her one room apartment. Then, money she made fromshooting elegant home and gardens by day was spent on photographing steel mills at night andon the weekends. The circulation of her portfolio brought her to the attention ofCleveland’s biggest industrial tycoons. After a few failures, she was successful atcapturing the Otis Steel mill. From this, she made enough money to move her studio to theTerminal 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 tocome to New York so they could meet, and so Bourke-White could see what Time was toaccomplish. She was unimpressed, but Luce and his editor Parker Lloyd- Smith were alsoplanning 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 July1929, the decision was made to publish the magazine, called Fortune. Bourke-White beganworking on stories for the premier issue, eight months away. The first lead story was tofeature Swift & Co., a hog processing plant. She worked with Lloyd-Smith until he became toosick 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 inthe 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 wereall but closed to westerners, especially photographers. Bourke-White was attracted toRussia, but her editors at Fortune doubted that she would gain access. They instead sent herto Germany to photograph the emerging industry there. She decided that she would go on herown, and after six weeks of waiting, her visa cleared the Soviet bureaucracy. She loaded upher cameras along with trunks of food, and set off on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Russia wasfull of red tape for Bourke-White. Fortunately for her, an official was so impressed withher portfolio that he granted her a permit requiring all Soviet citizens to aid and assistBourke-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 thousandnegatives of Russia, the first complete documentary of the newly emerging Soviet Russia. Inthe summer of 1931, she was invited back to Russia by the government. This time throughRussia, she concentrated not on machinery, but on people. The New York Times Sunday Magazinepublished six article that she had written about the trip, along with her photographs. Inthe 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 herphotographs had. She tried to sell the footage to a Hollywood studio, but they would not buyit because of their fear that it would be seen as propaganda. In 1936, Bourke-white toured the south with the writer Erskine Caldwell to supply thepictures for the book You Have Seen Their Faces. The book was a photo documentary of thepoor, rural people of the south. Later in 1936, Henry Luce decided to launch a picturemagazine, spurred on by the success of European picture tabloids. In this magazine, pictureswouldn’t be subservient to the text; the pictures would tell the story. The magazine wascalled Life and Bourke-White was one of the four original photographers hired. She coveredeverything from the New Deal towns springing up in the Midwest to the growing conflict inEurope. In early 1941, tensions were running high in Europe, and Life asked her to return toRussia, to make a comparison between the current Russia and the one that she saw ten yearsbefore. Bourke-White and Caldwell entered Russia though China. On July 22nd, the first bombsfell on Moscow and Bourke-White was the only foreign photographer present. The resultingpictures were a major scoop for Bourke-White and Life. She spent the next four yearscovering the European theater of war, it’s leaders, and the aftermath of the Nazi deathcamps. She also flew in American bombers on their bombing raids, taking pictures of thedestruction. After the war, in 1946, she was sent by Life to cover the emerging countries of Pakistanand India. She photographed Mahatma Gandhi many times, taking her last picture of him hoursbefore he was assassinated. From 1950 to 1956, Bourke-White returned to Life and coveredeverything 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 onthe disease, she believed that it manifested itself while she was in Korea, racing against adeadline. Gradually. the disease shut down Bourke-White’s body, and she had to learn to walkagain. In 1958, a experimental procedure for easing the effects of Parkinson’s was preformedon 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. Togetherthey covered the same type of surgery Bourke-White had undergone. Bourke-White then askedthe editors to put her story into Life , but they were apprehensive. they eventuallyyeilded, and the story was hugely popular. However, in 1961, Parkinson’s once again reachedher right side, and another operation was preformed. this time it was successful, but itmade 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 timethe disease had taken over her body, and she did not respond well to treatment. In the earlysummer of 1971, Bourke-White fell and injured herself badly. This accident was one of thegreat dangers of Parkinson’s. Bourke-White was confined to a hospital bed. This immobilitybrought on complications, and Bourke-White died on August 21st, 1971, at the age of sixtyseven. Margaret Bourke-White contributed many things to the world of photography. She was awoman, doing a man’s job, in a man’s world, from the foundries of Cleveland to thebattlefields in World War II. She was hailed for accomplishing as much as she did underthese circumstances. She met little resistance from the world due to her sex, since she wasknown as a famous and skilled photographer. Her work on Fortune magazine was a step in thedevelopment of the photo essay. She continued this idea of pictures telling a story with herwork with Erskine Caldwell on the books You Have Seen Their Faces and Say, This is theU.S.A. In these books, Bourke-White supplied the pictures, and Caldwell wrote the text ofthe books. She also was the first western photographer to be allowed to document Russia’sfive 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 firstphotographers to work on photo essays. She was the first western photographer to be allowedin Russia. Later, she was the only western photographer present during the bombing ofMoscow. She was an original staff photographer for two of the most prominent magazines ofher 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 importantphotographers of the twentieth century. BibliographyBourke-White, Margaret and Caldwell, Erskine. Say, Is This The U.S.A.? Da Capo Press. NewYork. 1977. Callahan, Sean, editor. The Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White. New York GraphicSociety. 1972. Goldberg, Vicki. In Hot Pursuit-The Life and Times of Margaret Bourke-White. AmericanPhotographer. June 1986.Goldberg, Vicki. Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company,Inc. Reading, Mass. 1987.