Margaret Bourke-White was born in New York on June 14, 1904. She studied biology and photography simultaneously at the Clarence H. White School of Photography in New York. In 1927, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she opened an agency and discovered industrial facilities as her subject. Her photographs of industrial structures "as an expression of their time" were published in 1929 and made her famous.
Margaret Bourke-White now worked for the illustrated magazine "Fortune" and travelled with the assignment of taking pictures of industrial buildings as the first Western photo journalist in the Soviet Union.
In 1935, she co-founded "Life" and also took the very first cover photo of the magazine. In 1939, Bourke-White married the writer Erskine Caldwell, and two years later she returned to the Soviet Union. On this trip she took the photographs for the photo book Shooting the Russian War, which appeared in 1942. During World War II, Margaret Bourke-White worked as the first female war correspondent for "Life" and the U.S. Army.
In 1945, she captured the liberation of the concentration camp Buchenwald in haunting photographs. The following year, she travelled to India to document the struggle for liberation there for Life. Gandhi met her in person with a spinning wheel, the symbol of the Indian struggle for independence ("Gandhi at his spinning wheel").
At the end of the 1940s, she created a reportage in South Africa about the problem of apartheid, and in 1952 she documented the war in Korea with her camera.
Margaret Bourke-White fell ill with Parkinsons disease a few years later, and had to give up her career as a photo journalist. She published many photo volumes, of which Eyes on Russia (1931) and U.S.S.R. Photographs (1934) deserve special mention.
Margaret Bourke-White died August 27, 1971, in Stanford, Connecticut.