‘Margaret Bourke-White: Moments In History’ Opens Aug. 19

Margaret Bourke-White, [Women working in the field, Kostolná, Czechoslovakia], 1938 Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries Photo © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Margaret Bourke-White, [Women working in the field, Kostolná, Czechoslovakia], 1938
Courtesy of Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
Photo © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

The Syracuse University Art Galleries, in collaboration with the SU Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, will present "Margaret Bourke-White: Moments in History 1930-1945," an exhibition of over 180 vintage photographs taken in the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, Germany, England and Italy in the 1930s and '40s. The exhibition, to open Aug. 19, will also feature original Life and Fortune magazines, in addition to correspondence related to Bourke-White’s photography and projects.

Stockpile warehouse for aluminum rods, Aluminum Co. of America, ca. 1930 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries Photo © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York

Stockpile warehouse for aluminum rods, Aluminum Co. of America, ca. 1930 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
Photo © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

This is the first of a series of exhibitions that Syracuse University Art Galleries will present in the 2014-15 academic year celebrating women in the arts.  A complementary exhibition entitled, "Context: Reading the Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White," will be presented at the Special Collections Research Center, also opening Aug. 19.

This exhibition was curated by Oliva María Rubio of La Fábrica, Spain, and is a co-production by the Hague Museum of Photography, La Fábrica (Spain), Martin-Gropius-Bau (Germany), Preus-Museum (Norway) and Syracuse University Libraries. The Syracuse University Art Galleries is the closing venue for this monumental exhibition that has toured throughout Europe for the past two years.

The exhibition will run through Oct. 19 in the Shaffer Art Building.  Gallery hours are Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; and Thursdays 11 a.m.-8 p.m.  The SUArt Galleries will host a free opening night reception from 5-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 4. Patrons are welcome to view the exhibition until the gallery closes at 8 p.m.  The reception is open to the public.

In the male-dominated world of early 20th-century photojournalism, Bourke-White (1904-1971) was a striking exception to the rule. She was the first woman to work for Fortune and Life magazines. In Russia, she photographed a smiling Stalin, and in Georgia the aged mother of the dictator. In 1941, when the first German bombs fell on Moscow, Bourke-White was the only foreign photojournalist in the city. Many of her images are unforgettable, like the ones she took following the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp by American troops.

Bourke-White was not just a passionate and gifted photographer; she was, above all, the "eye" of her time. She was prepared to do whatever it took to capture current events, and she photographed the most remarkable moments in 20th-century history. As a young photographer, she barely survived a German torpedo attack, shot pictures from Allied bombers and teetered on a projecting roof-top ledge to photograph New York from the dizzy heights of the Chrysler Building.

Man tightening the large nuts on the turbine shell, 1930 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Man tightening the large nuts on the turbine shell, 1930 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Fascinated by the Industrial Revolution and the social changes it caused, Bourke-White photographed the factories of the Soviet Union and the United States. Her first trip to the Soviet Union in 1930 was at the time of Stalin’s First Five-Year Plan, with the consequent Soviet obsession with technology and emphasis on rapid expansion, particularly of heavy industry. Workers and their machines are therefore central to her photographs of Soviet factories. However, she also documented other aspects of everyday life in the Soviet Union, including children on their way to school, street life, designers at work and agricultural workers in the countryside. In the United States, she captured the hidden beauty of the vast steel production plants.

At the time of her death in 1971, Bourke-White gave her entire archive to Syracuse University.  Available to students and researchers today in Syracuse University Libraries’ Special Collections Research Center, the Margaret Bourke-White Papers is one of the most outstanding photojournalism collections in the country, containing some 19,000 negatives, approximately 24,000 prints and 44 linear feet of manuscript material (including extensive correspondence, job files, financial files and personal papers).

Select programming associated with the exhibition includes a gallery tour with Lucy D. Mulroney, interim senior director of special collections for Syracuse University Libraries, on Friday, Oct. 10, at 2 p.m.   Additional programing, presented by Syracuse University Libraries in concert with the exhibitions includes "Lightness: In the Air with William Faulkner and Margaret Bourke-White,"  a public lecture by  Alexander Nemerov (Stanford University) on Oct. 1-2; and a lecture and workshop with Gary Albright on Oct. 9-10 on "The Intensification of Photographs: Observations from Recent Research and Practice," as part of the Brodsky Series for the Advancement of Library Conservation. These lectures are free and open to the public. Preregistration is required for the mini-seminars and workshops. Visit http://library.syr.edu/find/scrc/programs/ for more information.

The exhibition and programs are free and open to the public.  Complete information and related programming is available by visiting the official exhibition website at http://suart.syr.edu/.Press material, including exhibition press release, exhibition publications, checklist and press ready images are available for download directly from the website at http://suart.syr.edu/media-2/press-materials/