MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE: MOMENTS IN HISTORY
AUGUST 19- OCTOBER 19, 2014
The Syracuse University Art Galleries, in collaboration with the SU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, presents Margaret Bourke-White: Moments in History 1930-1945, an exhibition of over 150 vintage photographs taken in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Germany, England and Italy in the 1930s and 40s. The exhibition also features original Life magazines, in addition to correspondence related to Bourke-White’s photography and projects. A complementary exhibition entitled Context: Reading the Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White is presented at the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.
In the male-dominated world of early twentieth-century photojournalism, Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) was a striking exception to the rule. She was the first woman to work for Fortune and Life magazine. In Russia, she photographed a smiling Stalin and in Georgia the aged mother of the dictator. In 1941, when the first German bombs fell on Moscow, Bourke-White was the only foreign photojournalist in the city. Many of her images are unforgettable, like the ones she took following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by American troops.
Margaret Bourke-White was not just a passionate and gifted photographer; she was, above all, the ‘eye’ of her time. She was prepared to do whatever it took to capture current events and she photographed the most remarkable moments in 20th century history. As a young photographer, she barely survived a German torpedo attack, shot pictures from Allied bombers and teetered on a projecting roof-top ledge to photograph New York from the dizzy heights of the Chrysler Building.
Fascinated by the industrial revolution and the social changes it caused, Bourke-White photographed the factories of the Soviet Union and the United States. Her first trip to the Soviet Union in 1930 was at the time of Stalin’s First Five Year Plan, with the consequent Soviet obsession with technology and emphasis on rapid expansion, particularly of heavy industry. Workers and their machines are therefore central to her photographs of Soviet factories. However, she also documented other aspects of everyday life in the Soviet Union, including children on their way to school, street life, designers at work, and agricultural workers in the countryside. In the United States, she captured the hidden beauty of the vast steel production plants.
At the time of her death in 1971, Margaret Bourke-White gave her entire archive to Syracuse University. Available to students and researchers today in Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, the Margaret Bourke-White Papers is one of the most outstanding photojournalism collections in the country, containing some 19,000 negatives, approximately 24,000 prints, and 44 linear feet of manuscript material (including extensive correspondence, job files, financial files, and personal papers).
This exhibition was curated by Oliva María Rubio of La Fábrica, Spain, and is a co-production by the Hague Museum of Photography, La Fábrica (Spain), Martin-Gropius-Bau (Germany), Preus-Museum (Norway), and Syracuse University Libraries (United States).