Pushing the Boundaries of Photojournalism

By the early 1950s, Margaret Bourke-White‘s reputation as a photojournalist was legendary. She repeatedly pushed the boundaries of photojournalism from the 1920s to the 1950s documenting social conditions and the modernization of America through industrial developments and political movements as well as significant personalities of the period.

A Legacy

She was the most distinguished female photographer to be shooting exclusively for Life and Fortune magazines. Leaving an amazing pictorial record for the twentieth century, she solidified her reputation as the first Western photographer officially allowed in the USSR in 1930, the first accredited female photographer in WWII who was also allowed to fly in combat missions, and the last person to interview Mahatma Gandhi. In April 1952 (towards the end of her prestigious career) Life ran a twelve page article entitled, “A New Way To Look At the U.S.: Camera and helicopter give an exalted view of the land.”

Margaret Bourke-White, Statue of Liberty, 1952, Silver Gelatin Photograph

Statue of Liberty

Margaret Bourke-White was probably the best known pioneer photographer to use a helicopter to show readers what the United States looked like through pictures of landscapes, buildings, and monuments taken from the vantage point of her “flying tripod.” One such shot that became an enduring image for Bourke-White was “Statue of Liberty” showing tourists in the colossal crown of the monument with the New Jersey shore in the background. Bourke-White took this startling face-to-face view of the Statue of Liberty by urging the pilot of the helicopter to move closer to the American icon resulting in her almost being arrested. Although taken over sixty years ago, this image can still astonish viewers today and remains a joyful representation by adding a human and more intimate touch to one of America’s most enduring symbols. It also remains an expression of one woman’s pursuit of finding an icon to celebrate the optimism of America and to capture the spirit of the nation.


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