“The camera is a remarkable instrument. Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand.” -Margaret Bourke-White
“One of the trailblazers in photojournalism, Bourke-White played an historic role in media and women’s history. [...] Margaret Bourke-White combined professional skills and a socially responsive philosophy that made her one of the 100 most influential women of the twentieth century.” -Patrick Cox, Center for American History
“Margaret Bourke-White's photojournalism demonstrated her singular ability to communicate the intensity of major world events while respecting formal relationships and aesthetic considerations. She was one of the most respected photojournalists in the country during the 1930s and 40s, and her documentary work was among the most popular of its day.” -Linda Hostetler, International Center for Photography
RARE OVER-SIZED PHOTOGRAPH BY MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE, THE FIRST FOREIGN PHOTOGRAPHER TO CAPTURE THE U.S.S.R.
While American photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White’s first assignment in the Soviet Union was to capture the environment and effects of industrialization, what the photographer ended up paying close attention to was the people. She writes that, during that time, she had a dream in which the cars she was photographing turned on her--hoods snapping, as if to swallow her. From then on, Bourke-White vowed to move away from the industrial photography of her early years, to “undertake only those photographic assignments which I felt could be done in a creative and constructive way.”
And so, Bourke-White did not only spend her time in the early 1930s (taking three consecutive trips in the summers of 1930-32) photographing Soviet industrialization: she took an interest in the people too. This photograph, which captures in detail the expression and profile of each of the circus-goers, is a testament to the photographer's newfound commitment to engaging human subjects.
It was soon after that Bourke-White’s fame ascended to new heights, with her start with Life magazine in 1936, and subsequently her publication of Have You Seen Their Faces, a text co-written with husband Erskine Caldwell on communities afflicted by the Great Depression. Over the next several years and into the early 40s, Bourke-White produced several Life photo-essays on the turmoil of Europe: the German invasion of Moscow (1941), Allied Air Crew bombing missions (1942), and the liberation of the concentration camps (1945). In this way, then, At the Circus is an instrumental photograph because it is a stepping stone onto which Bourke-White invested herself more in human-interest stories, on the ways in which trauma, catastrophe, and war impacted people and communities.
Provenance: From the estate of Evelyne Z. Daitz, the celebrated photography dealer and owner and director of the Witkin Gallery (New York).
At the Circus, U.S.S.R. Oversize warm-toned silver print with thin black border, the image measuring 14x19 1/2 inches (35.6x50 cm.). With credit and subject notation "Early Russia Circus", in pencil, in an unknown hand, on verso. A hint of silvering at edges, only visible in raking light. Spectacularly framed archivally under museum glass.
Note: This is a vintage print, c.1935, with Bourke-White's characteristic black border, (at this point in her career she insisted her prints be uncropped and "printed to black").
AN EXCEPTIONALLY LARGE AND POWERFUL IMAGE FROM HER TRANSFORMATIVE TRIP TO THE SOVIET UNION.
Price: $5,200 .