Academic journal article Journalism History

Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930

Academic journal article Journalism History

Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930

Article excerpt

Ostman, Ronald E. and Harry Littell. Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930. Boston: David R. Godine, 2005. 88 pp. $19.95.

Archived along with her personal papers and some of her cameras at Syracuse University is a large collection of Margaret Bourke-White's photographs and negatives. Many of them are famous, seen around the world on the pages of Fortune, Ufe, and Time. Some are stunningly graceful and geometric, such as her Life magazine story on the Fort Peck Dam that ran on the cover of the premier issue in 1936, while others are just stunning, such as her images from a newly liberated concentration camp at Buchenwald near the end of World War II.

In Margaret Bourke-White: The Early Work, 1922-1930, Ronald E. Ostman and Harry Littell have culled a collection of images that predate her being "found" by publisher Henry R. Luce, a collection that tracks her movement from an early pictorialist style to a more formal, sharply defined industrial reportage. While the opening thirty-page essay on her life before she became famous is exquisitely researched and well presented, it is the following eighty photographs that are of enormous educational value.

In those photographs, taken on the campuses of the University of Michigan and Cornell University while she was a student, as well as in Cleveland, Ohio, her transformation unfolds before the reader. Side by side, page after page, the visual explorations of Bourke-White are visible. Her approach and her attempts at improving her work can be seen as her vision evolves over time. …

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