Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pete's Parkinson's portraits: Margaret Bourke-White

Margaret Bourke-White was a photographer who had an eye for images that would become iconic. Her Depression-era photos are eloquent in their simple black and white portrayal of a tough and quietly suffering people. She went on to make powerful photographs during world War II. As the war wound down in Europe she documented the horror of the concentration camps. The atrocity must have struck at her with particular force, as her father was Jewish.

Her career was a combination of art and high adventure. The website Gallery M (Where you can see some of her photographs) reports

During her unique career, Bourke-White was 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. She was the first Western photographer to document Soviet industry after the revolution, to create a travelogue of Czechoslovakia and other Balkan states just before Hitler moved in to ignite World War II, and to be stationed in Moscow just before Germany bombed its former ally.

She died at 67 years of age from Parkinson's complications. A person of unusual toughness, she lived with the disease from 1956 through 1971, benefiting from then-experimental surgery. She left behind a remarkable collection of fine photographs as well as an example of courage and tenacity that sets a great model for all of us, not just those who have Parkinson's Disease.