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Margaret Bourke-WhiteAmerican, (1904–1971)
"Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was born in New York City. One of America’s leading female photographers, she was also a leader in the newly developing field of photo-journalism. As a staff photographer for Fortune and Life magazines, she covered the major political and social issues of the 1930s and 1940s.
Bourke-White first took up photography while a student at Cornell University. After graduation Bourke-White opened a studio in Cleveland, Ohio, where she found the industrial landscape “a photographic paradise.”
Specializing in architectural photography, her prints of the Otis Steel factory came to the attention of Time magazine publisher Henry Luce, who was planning a new publication devoted to the glamour of business. In the spring of 1929 Bourke-White became the first staff photographer for Fortune magazine, which made its debut in February 1930. She made several trips to the Soviet Union. She published this work in the book Eyes on Russia (1931).
Later, Bourke-White while working out of a New York City studio in the Chrysler Building, also handled profitable advertising accounts. In 1934 she earned over $35,000, but a Fortune assignment to cover the drought in the Midwest opened her eyes to human suffering and steered her away from high-paying advertising work. She began to view photography less as a purely artistic medium and more as a powerful tool for informing the public. In 1936 she worked with Erskine Caldwell on a photo-essay revealing social conditions in the South. The results of their efforts became her best-known book, You Have Seen Their Faces (1937).
In the fall of 1936 Bourke-White joined the staff of Life magazine. Her picture of the Fort Peck dam in Montana adorned the cover of Life magazine’s first issue, November 11, 1936.
During World War II Bourke-White served as a war correspondent affiliated with both Life and the U.S. Air Force. She survived a torpedo attack on a ship she was taking to North Africa and accompanied the bombing mission that destroyed the German airfield of El Aouina near Tunis. She later covered the Italian campaign (late recorded in the book They Called It “Purple Heart Valley”). She was with General George Patton (1885-1945) in the spring of 1945 when his troops opened the gates at Buchenwald. Her photos were among the first to reveal the horrors of the concentration camps.
On August 27, 1971, Margaret Bourke-White died at her home in Darien, Connecticut. She left behind a legacy as a determined woman, an innovative visual artist and a compassionate human observer."
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