About this artwork
For the inaugural issue of Life magazine, Margaret Bourke-White was assigned to photograph the succession of dams along the Columbia River basin initiated by the Public Works Administration. She recalled being instructed by the publication’s owner, Henry Luce, “to watch out for something on a grand scale that might make a cover.” The image of Fort Peck Dam’s spillway showcases advancements in modern hydropower technology while also treating the concrete structures as stately, ancient monuments. This first cover of Life set the visual tone for the magazine and simultaneously launched Bourke-White into a pathbreaking career in photojournalism; she later became the first female war correspondent and the first female photographer to fly on a combat mission. This print was acquired by the Art Institute one year after Bourke-White held a solo exhibition at the museum.
- Currently Off View
- Photography and Media
- Margaret Bourke-White
- Fort Peck Dam, Montana
- New York City (Artist's nationality:)
- Made 1936
- Gelatin silver print
- Unmarked recto; inscribed verso, on mount, upper left, in purple and black ink: "LIFE [underlined] 'S FIRST COVER, PHOTOGRAPH OF [purple] / Fot Peck Dam, MONTANA / MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE / 1936 [in black ink]"; verso, on mount, upper right, in graphite: "6 74 [underlined] / LM / B.W."
- Paper: 49.1 × 38.9 cm (19 3/8 × 15 3/8 in.); Secondary support: 71.2 × 55.9 cm (28 × 22 in.)
- Photography and Media Purchase Fund
- © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY