Bourke-White Photo Essay

Bourke-White’s experience as a combat photographer profoundly shaped her vision of the postwar world.

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She had begun her career two decades before as an industrial photographer documenting turbines, dams, mines, bridges, steel mills, and other wonders of the mechanical age, in the U. Hired by Henry Luce as the first photographer for .

As the shuttered factories and bread lines of the Great Depression undermined the nation’s faith in industry, Bourke-White turned her lens to more social subjects.

She showed readers the ravages of th Miners, wearing helmets and perspiring heavily, standing in 95 degree heat in Robinson Deep Diamond Mine tunnel, more than a mile underground, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1950.

(Photo by Margaret Bourke-White/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images) " data-medium-file="

After attending summer school at Rutgers University in 1921, Bourke-White transferred to the University of Michigan to study herpetology.

Bourke-White Photo Essay

There she met and married Everett "Chappie" Chapman, a graduate student in electrical engineering.w=222" data-large-file=" w=439" class="size-medium wp-image-16 alignleft" alt="Johannesburg Miners" src="" width="221" height="300" srcset=" w=221&h=300 221w, w=111&h=150 111w," sizes="(max-width: 221px) 100vw, 221px" /e drought and storms in the Dust Bowl; the desperation of victims displaced when rivers overflowed their banks; and the plight of poor blacks and poor whites in the rural South.These experiences, driven by what she called her “insatiable desire to be on the scene while history is being made,” made Bourke-White an expert witness to the unfolding story of South Africa.Elected to power by whites in 1948, the Afrikaner nationalist government embarked on an ambitious program of total segregation known as “Apartheid.” In a country of 10 million Blacks and only 2.5 million whites, the latter retained all political power, controlled all the fertile land, and attempted to reduce Blacks to the status of an impoverished servile class.Her trip South, resulting in the photo essay, (1937), confirmed Bourke-White’s determination to turn her camera “in the direction of something that might have some social significance.” Her South African travels came at the end of a series of foreign adventures as ’s star photographer.She travelled to Czechoslovakia after Hitler’s annexation of 1938; to Moscow in 1941; to defeated Germany in 1945; and to India during independence and Partition.Y., in 1926 to attend Cornell University for her senior year.In her autobiography she wrote that she went there "because I read there were waterfalls on the campus." At Cornell, Bourke-White earned money by selling pictures of the school buildings and grounds to the Cornell Alumni News and to fellow students.In the fall of 1921, Bourke-White began college at Columbia University in New York City.During her second semester, she registered for a photography class with Clarence H. Bourke-White loved the class, and, after her father died in January 1922, her mother was able to buy her a secondhand camera.


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