Monday, July 26, 2010

This Day In History


Unlike most photographers, she was as famous as her pictures. Margaret Bourke-White was an institution, and personification of the formative years of LIFE magazine. The images she captured are memorable enough on their own: a line of flood victims in Kentucky stretched in front of a billboard braying prosperity; Gandhi at the spinning wheel.

In July 26th 1941, she became the right person at the right place as the German bombardment of the Kremlin began. She was the only foreign photographer in Moscow–she was dispatched there because one of the Life editors, Wilson Hicks, believed that Germany would invade the Soviet Union soon.

Although the Soviet officials had announced that their soldiers would shoot anyone spotted with a camera, Bourke-White was granted an exception. On the night of July 23rd, she went up the American embassy roof where the Soviet air wardens couldn’t see her. At one point, a bomb exploded nearly, blowing every window of the embassy. Bourke-White had the sense to seek the shelter just seconds before.

The above most picture showed the spires of Kremlin silhouetted by German Luftwaffe flare, with the antiaircraft gunners dotting sky over Red Square. The second showed the Kremlin lit up by flares from anti-aircraft shells and seven Nazi parachute flares which provided light for German bombardiers.

All during her stay in the USSR, Bourke-White tried to photograph Stalin; she had been refused the opportunity on her earlier visits. When Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s adviser, reached Moscow on July 30, he found Bourke-White already there. The second time he met Stalin on July 31st, he got the permission for Bourke-White to photograph the meeting too.

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