William Doyle Galleries, New York, 5 December 1997
Sean Callahan, ed., The Photographs of Margaret Bourke-White (Greenwich, 1972), p. 64
Taking Place: Photographs from the Prentice & Paul Sack Collection (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2005), pl. 149
More than most photographers of her day, Bourke-White was able to incorporate what were then radical compositional ideas into her commercial and editorial work. Like Edward Steichen, Bourke-White was visually omnivorous and was always on the lookout for exciting compositional strategies that would set her pictures apart from those of competing photographers. The influence of Modernism and Constructivism characterizes her best work from the 1930s, as in the photograph offered here. With its depiction of rows of multiple, gigantic balloon-like tanks, divorced from any establishing context, this photograph exemplifies Bourke-White's innate talent for composing dynamic images.
Known for its talented editors and progressive art directors, Fortune magazine maintained an adventurous attitude toward photography, frequently publishing images that bordered on the abstract or were compositionally dramatic in other ways. Bourke-White found that her editorial work for Fortune allowed her a high degree of creative control, and the work she produced on assignment for the magazine is some of her best.
This impressively-sized exhibition print was originally part of an American Federation of Arts exhibition. Founded by Secretary of State Elihu Root in 1909, the Federation was charged with creating touring exhibitions of original artworks.
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