Xerjoff Magazine

1900 seen by Margaret Bourke-White

Writer

“Prima, donna. Margaret Bourke-White” is the title of a retrospective exhibition dedicated to the great American photographer, in progress at Palazzo Reale in Milan.

We could call her the woman of records. Indeed, she has been the first woman soldier in history, the first to be allowed to take photos in USSR and the first female correspondent of the magazine Life. We are talking about photographer Margaret Bourke-White, tireless traveller, multifaceted artist and leading character in women’s emancipation to whom Palazzo Reale in Milan (Piazza Duomo, 12) dedicates a rich retrospective exhibition. Her career as a photographer started in 1936 when Life put one of her photos on the magazine’s cover. From that moment on Bourke-White had the chance to express her talent especially as war reporter. The pictures included in the exhibition show that clearly: reportages of the 2nd World War (from the portrait of Stalin to the American bombings up to the battle of Moscow) to the War of Korea to Gandhi, and the South African riots. We owe Margaret Bourke-White the creation of a new and original photographic style, receptive to what was happening also in other artistic expressions. Her early 1900s snapshots are influenced by Picasso’s cubist experimentations, her 1920s photos reveal instead her knowledge of Expressionist movies and the subsequent theatre experiments.

Finally, her 1960s aerial photos express the libertarian push characterising the world of art at that time. Convinced that a photo could express the world’s objectivity and convey democracy as a universal language, Bourke-White was able to create images permeated of a romantic tone, thus allowing us to live the historical events captured once again, emotionally involved, almost in first person. The exhibition will be open until 14th February.

Above: On the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building in New York City in 1934. © Oscar Graubner Courtesy Estate of Margaret Bourke White