Margaret Bourke-White: Photographs of the U.S.S.R.

(Douglass Gallery) Margaret Bourke-White’s adventurous spirit led her to photograph various danger zones around the globe. Though her concern for politics and social justice was that of a global participant, her zealous photojournalism shows us a uniquely American spirit. In this exhibit, Soviet Russia is captured through Bourke-White’s lens as she documents the industrialization and political changes in the region, and how this represents an American sympathy for developing and war-torn nations.

August 25-December 12

Margaret Bourke White Headshot

Margaret Bourke-White by Oscar Graubner


About the Exhibition

For the first time, in its entirety, Margaret Bourke-White’s Photographs of U.S.S.R. portfolio of photogravures will be on display at the Art Museum. Bourke-White traveled to the Soviet Union during three consecutive summers (1930-1932) to document the first Five-Year Plan initiated by Joseph Stalin, whereby the nation began transitioning from an agricultural society to an industrial center. Though she took thousands of photographs during her trips, Bourke-White selected only 24 for Photographs of U.S.S.R. This exhibition is made possible through the generous gift of the portfolio from devoted patron, Mrs. Frances McClure. The exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Helen C. Ball, the first Curator of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections at Miami University. Helen visited Russia in the 1960s.

Margaret Bourke-White achieved great acclaim as the first female American war correspondent and is widely recognized as the pioneer of photojournalism. Her photoset from Russia made for a successful propaganda machine: how progress is gained through a liberal society. Bourke-White’s photography exposed the modest and harsh lives of many of Russia’s poor peasants, and the principles of hard work that linked cultural and political boundaries between the Soviet Union and the United States. By discovering and presenting these shared values, her prints contributed to an American sympathy for the Russian people.

Funding for the programming associated with this exhibition is provided by the Walter Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at Miami University. Support fr​​om the Havighurst Center also sponsored the translation of the text included in the exhibition from English to Russian to serve both Miami University students and Russian-speaking public audiences. The translation work is provided by Alexandra Dobryanskaya and Ivan Ninenko. The exhibition is co-curated by Kimberly Blake, a Curatorial Intern at the Art Museum during the Fall 2014 semester. Meghan Canfield, a Graphic Design Intern at the Art Museum during the Spring 2015 semester, is responsible for all of the graphic materials for this exhibition.

Exhibition Programming

Tuesday, September 15 – Lecture: Eyes on Stalinism: Looking at the First Five-Year Plan, 1929-1933 ~ Steve Norris, Ph.D., Professor of History, Assistant Director, Havighurst Center for Russian & Post-Soviet Studies. (Art Museum) 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, October 6 – Lecture: Bourke-White on Red ~ Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions, Miami University Art Museum. (Art Museum) 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, October 21 – Lecture: The New Janus: Russia’s Visual Identity in the 21st Century ~ Helena Goscilo, Professor, Department of Slavic & East European Languages and Literature, The Ohio State University. (Art Museum)
6 – 7 p.m.

Co-sponsored by the Walter Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies.