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The Camera Queen
Margaret Bourke-White, who saw beauty in the lines of a steel girder and the blackness of a coal mine, pioneers a new era of photography.
by Richard H. Parke
WHEN I called on Margaret Bourke-White in her spacious penthouse studio in a Fifth Avenue office building, she had just returned to New York from photographing a new textile mill in the South. Piled high in the center of the vast room was the equipment she had carried with her: A couple of cameras, a box of flashlight bulbs, a folded tripod and three or four travel-scarred suitcases.
To me, they represented Exhibit A in the fast-accumulating evidence to prove that this dark-eyed, intense young woman is one of the world’s greatest photographers. I saw in them the spirit of adventure and pioneering which is the secret of her success, the same spirit which led her to go to New York ten years ago and embark on the development of an idea which was peculiarly her own.
Briefly, that idea was that there is beauty in industryâ€”a beauty that lies in the clean-cut lines of a steel girder, the towering majesty of a city skyscraper, the shower of sparks from a blazing coke oven, the sombre blackness of a coal mine. She knew that the faces of factory workers could wear the nobility of statesmen, that farmers could plow their fields with the grace of athletes and that the skill in a workman’s toss of a red-hot rivet could be compared with the marksmanship of a rifleman.
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