cover image Margaret Bourke White

Margaret Bourke White

Susan Goldman Rubin, Margaret Bourke-White. ABRAMS, $19.95 (96pp) ISBN 978-0-8109-4381-0

Rubin (Frank Lloyd Wright) centers her articulate, accessible portrait of this renowned photojournalist on 56 of Bourke-White's astounding duotone photographs. The cover image, one of the few here not shot by Bourke-White, shows her perched atop a steel gargoyle protruding from the 61st story of the brand-new Chrysler Building, photographing the New York City skyline; it speaks volumes about her grit and determination to go to any length to get the perfect shot. In a narrative carefully targeted to her audience, Rubin concisely charts the evolution of the intrepid photographer's work through the architectural, industrial, advertising and reportorial phases of her career. The author paints a portrait of a strong woman full of fascinating contradictions: Bourke-White benefited from the strength of her mother but also inherited from her a transient anti-Semitism; much later, after her father's death, she learned that he was Jewish, but hid the fact from her friends and even omitted it from her autobiography. A generous amount of quotes and an extensive bibliography attests to Rubin's assiduous research. The photographer's artistry encapsulates many of the most momentous events of the century. Bourke-White chronicled the beginning of the American industrial revolution, traveled overseas during WWII on assignment from both Life magazine and the U.S. Army Air Force, and covered the Korean War; her portraits of Churchill, Stalin and Patton, which graced the cover of Life, put faces to a distant war. She makes the horror of Germany's Buchenwald concentration camp, India's 1947 Great Migration and South African apartheid shockingly real. Rubin's understated, seemingly effortless narrative will cause readers to sit up and notice that many of the images they take for granted today had their roots in the work of this daring pioneer of the 20th century. Ages 10-13. (Nov.)