Margaret Bourke-White. At the Time of the Louisville Flood. 1937. Gelatin silver print, 9 3/4 × 13 1/8" (24.7 × 33.4 cm). Gift of the artist. © 2021 Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

“The camera is a remarkable instrument. Saturate yourself with your subject, and the camera will all but take you by the hand and point the way.”

Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White was a pioneering photojournalist whose insightful pictures of 1930s Russia, German industry, and the impact of the Depression and drought in the American midwest established her reputation. She took some of the first photographs inside German concentration camps at Erla and Buchenwald following the end of World War II and captured the last pictures of Mahatma Gandhi, in India.

Bourke-White entered Columbia University in 1921 to study herpetology; however, the following year a photography course taught by Clarence H. White at the Clarence H. White School of Photography left a lasting impression. For the course Bourke-White received her first camera, a secondhand 3 ¼ x 4 ¼ inch ICA Reflex with a cracked lens, taking her first photographs on glass plates. Though she continued to study zoology at the University of Michigan, from then on she never left the darkroom. In 1927 she graduated from Cornell University with a degree in biology, but she spent most of her time establishing herself as a professional photographer. Bourke-White opened her first studio in her apartment in Cleveland, Ohio. With photographs of architecture and industry, she earned commissions and caught the eye of Henry Luce, founder of Time and Fortune magazines, who, in 1929, invited her to become Fortune’s first staff photographer. She returned to New York and, in 1930, established a photographic studio in the Chrysler Building. When Luce launched Life magazine in 1936, Bourke-White joined the staff, and her picture Fort Peck Dam, Montana appeared on the first cover.

Note: Opening quote is from Margaret Bourke-White, “Chapter 28: Guerilla Warfare in Korea,” in Portrait of Myself.(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963), 333,

Mitra Abbaspour, Associate Curator, Department of Photography, 2014

Wikipedia entry
Margaret Bourke-White (; June 14, 1904 – August 27, 1971) was an American photographer and documentary photographer. She was arguably best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet industry under the Soviets' first five-year plan, as the first American female war photojournalist, and for taking the photograph (of the construction of Fort Peck Dam) that became the cover of the first issue of Life magazine.
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Born 14 June 1904; died 27 August 1971. Photojournalist for Time, Fortune, and Life magazines. American photographer.
Artist, Photojournalist, Photographer
Margaret Bourke-White, Margaret Bourke-White Caldwell, Margaret White, Margaret Bourke White, Margaret Bourke- White, Margaret née White, Margaret Bourke
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License


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