LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White clad in fleece flight suit while holding aerial camera, standing in front of Flying Fortress bomber in which she made combat mission photographs of the US attack on Tunis.

Inspiration – Margaret Bourke-White

 

As a photographer, when I look for inspiration I seem to gravitate toward the pioneers in the industry. I find it in the photographers who broke new ground at a time when breaking that ground took such passion, will and determination. It’s no coincidence that many of my personal hero’s in that field are women.   Capable and exceptional women are still fighting today to be recognized in a mans-world. They are still fighting for equal pay or to retain their right to choose. Imagine only recently having the right to vote, making your mark on that world and gaining the respect and admiration of your male-peers.   Margaret Bourke-White is one of those women.

From Patrick Murfin’s blog about Margaret:

Sean Callahan, an awe struck admirer and author of the book Margaret Bourke-White: Photographer noted, “The woman who had been torpedoed in the Mediterranean, strafed by the Luftwaffe, stranded on an Arctic island, bombarded in Moscow, and pulled out of the Chesapeake when her chopper crashed, was known to the Life staff as ‘Maggie the Indestructible.”

Margaret not only entered a mans-world as photographer, she went where no woman photographer has gone before. She was assigned to Europe before WWII to document everyday life under Fascists in Italy, Nazi Germany and Soviet Communists. She was granted unprecedented access, including to Joseph Stalin. That rare shot of Joseph Stalin, smiling and relaxed appeared on the cover of Life.

 

When war broke out, she was there to cover it, surviving a Luftwaffe bombardment and firestorm in Moscow. She flew and documented combat bombing missions in North Africa, and survived artillery bombardment in Italy where the army was bogged down in a grueling mountain campaign. Margaret also followed General Patton’s Army toward the end of the war. She was with him at the Buchenwald Death Camp shortly after it was liberated. The photos she took were published in Time and were among the first and most detailed images that Americans were able to see. The experience was a tremendous shock, commenting later:

“Using my camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me.”

 

Her next assignments took her to India where she documented the Independence of India and the bloody partition of India and Pakistan. Again having access and photographing the key players in that conflict including Mohandas Gandhi. The photograph of him, emaciated from fasting and sitting at his spinning wheel became one of the most recognizable images of him.

 

Margaret’s images still remain as some of the most moving and inspiring visual documents of WWII history. She, like so many women during WWII, stepped into a world previously dominate by men and showed her courage, strength and compassion. She did this, not in an age of iPhones and Instagram, she succeeded under the most dangerous and horrific circumstances.

 

She is a huge inspiration to me.

A few powerful examples of Margaret’s work:

 

Resources :

The Not Quite Indestructible Margaret Bourke-White

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margaret_Bourke-White