Anne Darling Photography

Margaret Bourke White
American, (1904-1971)

Margaret Bourke White began to study photography as a hobby while still a young woman. Her father was a camera enthusiast and it is said that his work improved the four-color printing process that is used for books and magazines. No doubt he influenced Bourke-White who started photography as a hobby when still a young woman but who developed her own styles and techniques by herself.

She was technically highly proficient and also possessed great people skills - the two combined in a highly successful career that puts Margaret Bourke White not only in the top ranks of famous women photographers but in the top ranks of famous american photographers .

Margaret Bourke-White Preparing to Photograph Corpses at Buchenwald
  • She was the first woman to be hired in the newly emerging field of photojournalism
  • .
  • She was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union in 1930.
  • She was the first photographer to work for Fortune magazine in 1929.
  • She was the first female photojournalist to work for Life magazine.
  • Her photograph of Fort Peck Dam was on the cover of the first issue of Life in 1935.
  • During the mid-1930s, Margaret Bourke-White, like Dorothea Lange, photographed drought victims of the Dust Bowl.
  • She collaborated with her husband, novelist Erskine Caldwell, on You Have Seen Their Faces , a book about the Great Depression.


  • Margaret Bourke-White Preparing to Photograph Corpses at Buchenwald
    Margaret Bourke-White preparing to take a photograph of a wagon piled with corpses in the Buchenwald concentration camp: Photo by Lieutenant Colonel Parke O. Yingst

  • She travelled to Europe to make photographs in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia of how people were living under Nazism.
  • She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow when the Germans forces.
  • She was the first female photographer in the US AirCorps.
  • She was the first female photographer in the US Air Corps and the first female war correspondent to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II.
  • After the war she went to India where she photographed Ghandi a few hours before his assassination. She also made many photographs of the Indian people.
  • She is also famous for her photograph of Pakistan's founder, Mohammed Ali Jinnah.
  • She was one of the photographers who made a photographic record of the violence that resulted from the partitioning of India and Pakistan.


  • Margaret Bourke-White feeding a cat
    Margaret Bourke-White at home: Photo by Cyreenik

  • In 1945 she travelled with George S Patton through Germany and was one of the first photographers to visit concentration camps such as Buchenwald to take photographs. She produced a book called Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly to help her come to terms with what she had seen during the War.
  • She is also well known for her Korean War photographs and the mines in south Africa.
  • In Korea, she chose to visit the Chiri Mountain are in the south rather than the front line where other war photographers went as there was a guerrilla war being fought in the area which she felt did more to highlight the struggles of the Korean people.
  • At the age of 50 she started to develop Parkinson's disease which curtailed her photographic activities. She had brain surgery twice in order to fight off the disease, once in 1959 and again in 1961. In 1963 she had her best-selling autobiography, Portrait of Myself, published. She died in 1971 at the age of 67.

    Recommended Reading

    Margaret Bourke-WhiteTwenty Parachutes is a beautiful production of 20 black-and-white images of people on the ground and parachutes reproduced 1:1 from the original photographs. Printed in duotone on matt stock, and bound in Japanese saifu, this elegant little book is an important addition to the literature on this extraordinary artist.

    In the March 22, 1937 issue of LIFE, a publication just six months old, there was a cover story entitled 'Parachutes'. Margaret Bourke-Whites' pictures told the story of the Irving Air Chute Company in Buffalo, New York, the world s largest manufacturer of parachutes. The photographic sequence of parachutes being tested by Irving employees in this book did not make the article in 1937, but survive instead as diminutive and precious vintage prints, as art. Their wonder is in their ambiguity, their lack of captions and context, their archetypal address of the questions of human importance, of who is really pulling the strings.





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