Margaret Bourke-White

(1904–1971)


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

Aggressive and relentless in her pursuit of pictures, Bourke-White had the knack of being at the right place at the right time. She was the premiere female industrial photographer, getting her start around 1927 in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Otis Steel Company.

Margaret Bourke-White is a woman of many firsts. She was a forerunner in the newly emerging field of photojournalism, and was the first female to be hired as such. She was the first photographer for Fortune magazine, in 1929. In 1930, she was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. Henry Luce hired her as the first female photojournalist for LIFE Magazine, soon after its creation in 1935, and one of her photographs adorned its first cover. She was the first female war correspondent, and the first to be allowed to work in combat zones during World War II, and one of the first photographers to enter and document the death camps.

She made history with the publication of her haunting photos of the Depression in the book You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaboration with then husband-to-be Erskine Caldwell. She wrote six books about her international travels.


Source: American Jewish Historical Society Newsletter Fall/Winter 2003