Lot 62
  • 62

Margaret Bourke-White

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Margaret Bourke-White
  • 'The American Way of Life' (At the Time of the Louisville Flood, Kentucky)
  • gelatin silver print
mounted, initialed and editioned '1/200' in pencil on the mount, a 'LIFE Photograph by Margaret Bourke-White' label, with title in ink, on the reverse, 1937, printed no later than 1971 (Callahan, pp. 135-7; Best of Life, p. 8)


The Witkin Gallery, Inc., New York, 1971

By descent to the present owner

Catalogue Note

Devastating flooding in the Ohio River Valley in 1937 left one million people homeless and 385 dead.  John Shaw Billings, then managing editor of LIFE Magazine, gave Margaret Bourke-White one hour’s notice for the assignment.  She caught the last plane to Louisville, Kentucky, before the airfield was closed.

Bourke-White rode on various rowboats and rafts with her equipment through the flooded streets of Louisville to capture photographs for the magazine.  The present image shows refugees lining up for supplies at an emergency relief center.  Bourke-White made several negatives from various viewpoints before finding the most provocative composition.  A biting example of the social and economic ironies of the Depression era, it is perhaps Bourke-White's best-known image. 

The Witkin Gallery, New York, held two significant exhibitions of Bourke-White’s photographs during its first ten years in operation.  This rare lifetime print was made in conjunction with the first, in January 1971.  Bourke-White was involved with the exhibition and attended the opening.  She died in August 1971.  Of the projected edition of 200, Bourke-White made very few prints.  At the time of this writing, it is believed that only one other print from this edition has appeared at auction.