Cover image for Margaret Bourke-White : her pictures were her life
Margaret Bourke-White : her pictures were her life
Rubin, Susan Goldman.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Harry N. Abrams, [1999]

Physical Description:
96 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Reading Level:
1000 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 7.7 3.0 34728.

Reading Counts RC High School 8.1 6 Quiz: 24228 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR140.B6 R83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Once one of the most famous and glamorous women in America, Margaret Bourke-White was a celebrated photographer. In her long and diverse career, spanning the 1920s through the 1950s, she covered landmark events of the twentieth century. Dining with dictators, flying on bombing missions, recording the birth of new nations, she courageously took on every challenge. She loved her work, and no assignment was too difficult. This book presents a fresh look into the exciting life and career of a pioneering female photojournalist whose work rose to the level of art.Chronicling her early life, the book discusses Bourke-White's close relationship with her father -- an inventor who was also interested in photography -- and her love of nature. It then goes on to explore her college years, her use of soft-focus, her industrial photographs, and her eventual assignments for major magazines. As Bourke-White's jobs took her across the United States and around the world, she created compassionate records of thepoverty in,the American South, the Nazi concentration camps, the caste system in India, and racism in South Africa. Her driving ambition to succeed in a male-dominated field continually placed her in adventurous and dangerous situations, and ultimately led her to become the first female photographer for Fortune and Life, the first woman accredited as a war photographer, and the first woman to fly on a bombing mission.Drawing on first-hand research, including interviews with those who knew Bourke-White, and illustrated with more than fifty of her photographs as well as archival images of Bourke-White and her family and friends, this new biography presents a moving introduction to a legendaryphotographer whose work is as meaningful today as when it was first published.

Author Notes

Susan Goldman Rubin grew up in the Bronx and dreamed of becoming an artist. She illustrated her first three picture books but then turned to writing nonfiction, mainly about art and history, and is the author of more than 55 books for young people. Her titles include Diego Rivera: An Artist For The People, They Call Me A Hero: A Memoir of My Youth, Music Was It! Young Leonard Bernstein, Everyone Paints! The Art and Lives of the Wyeth Family, and Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.

Most recently Susan has created board books based on fine art for very young children. Her titles include Counting with Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol's Colors, and Matisse: Dance For Joy.

Susan has been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program for 20 years.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 6^-up. Bourke-White lived with the kind of courage and passion that makes her the perfect inspiration for readers of any age. Having been taught discipline from her mother and confidence from her father, she always knew that she would be successful on her own terms. In an era when career women struggled at every turn, she quickly became one of the most promising photojournalists in the country. Fearless in her quest for perfection and originality, she often risked her life to represent her subjects authentically. As one of the "Founding Four" photographers of Life magazine, she took foreign assignments during World War II, and her battlefield photos brought the horrors of war close to home for a mass audience. Besides being one of the only photographers to have sittings with Stalin, Churchill, and Patton, she also took some of the most horrifying pictures of the Holocaust. Later assignments sent her to India, South Africa, and Korea, where her heartbreaking images and writing solidified her place in history. While focusing the bulk of this text on the photographic work, Rubin does a brilliant job of bringing in personal elements that resonate with real emotion. The Holocaust photographs are all the more stirring in light of Bourke-White's own shame over a Jewish ancestry she did not learn about until adulthood. Two failed marriages and a fight with Parkinson's disease round out a life story as vivid as the rich photographs that abound throughout this book, by far one of the best biographies of the year. --Roger Leslie

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 5 Up-Bourke-White's art and career are the focus of this visually stunning book. Rubin traces the celebrated photographer's life as she moves from an early interest in science, particularly herpetology, to the field of photography at which she excelled after an early introduction in college. The author follows her subject as she progresses from an industrial photographer who somehow made steel mills and factories look poetic to her successful covers for Life magazine. The book recounts the many adventures Bourke-White had in capturing some now-famous images, as well as the fascinating people she was able to meet, including Mahatma Gandhi and Josef Stalin. Rubin also delves into Bourke-White's personal life, such as the collaboration with her future husband, author Erskine Caldwell, on their documentary You Have Seen Their Faces, among other joint ventures. Many of the various images that Bourke-White masterfully captured are beautifully reproduced in the book, so that her life and work are featured in a balanced representation. More of an art book than a biography, this title should supplement Emily Keller's Margaret Bourke-White: A Photographer's Life (Lerner, 1996).-Carol Fazioli, The Brearley School, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.