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Fort Peck Dam, Montana

A work made of gelatin silver print.
© Estate of Margaret Bourke-White / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

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  • A work made of gelatin silver print.


1936, printed 1950s


Margaret Bourke–White
American, 1904–1971

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:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

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.)

Credit Line

Photography and Media Purchase Fund

Reference Number



© Estate of Margaret Bourke-White / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

Extended information about this artwork

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