61 years ago, on July 27, 1952, the Korean War ended, leaving millions of people dead. The brutal conflict lasted for roughly three years, from June 1950, until 1953, when the United Nations Command, the North Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed an armistice agreement.

South Korean president Syngman Rhee refused to sign the document, however — meaning that, technically, North and South Korea have been at war (or, at the very least, have not been at peace) for the past six decades. (read more)

© Margaret Bourke-White, 1952, A member of the South Korean National Police holds the severed head of a North Korean communist guerrilla during the Korean War
© Carl Mydans, 1952, Slaughtered South Korean prisoners and peasants

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© Margaret Bourke-White, ca. 1945, Sheep in a bombed out hangar in Leipzig

This picture says so much about war and war games people play. We stupid animals. Stupid.

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© Margaret Bourke-White, April 1945, Liberation of KZ Buchenwald a.o.

Some photographs are so much of their time that, as years pass, they acquire an air of genuine authority — about an event, a person, a place — and even, perhaps, of inevitability. This is what it was like, these pictures tell us. This is what happened. This is the moment. This is what must be remembered.

Of the many indispensable photos (#4 - at the bottom) made during the Second World War, Margaret Bourke-White’s portrait of survivors at Buchenwald in April 1945 — “staring out at their Allied rescuers,” as LIFE magazine put it, “like so many living corpses” — remains among the most haunting. The faces of the men, young and old, staring from behind the wire, “barely able to believe that they would be delivered from a Nazi camp where the only deliverance had been death,” attest with an awful eloquence to the depths of human depravity and, perhaps even more powerfully, to the measureless lineaments of human endurance.

What few people recall about Bourke-White’s survivors-at-the-wire image, however, is that it did not even appear in LIFE until 15 years after it was made, when it was published alongside other photographic touchstones in the magazine’s December 26, 1960, special double-issue, 25 Years of LIFE.” (read more)

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© Margaret Bourke-White, 1937, Louisville, Kentucky, Great Ohio River Flood

#1: “Boiled water was the only safe water for drinking in the flooded city. Editor Wilbur Cogshall of the Louisville Courier-Journal slept, ate and drank at his desk.”

#2: “The staffs of the Louisville Courier-Journal and Times get out a joint edition by lamplight.”

© Margaret Bourke-White, 1937, Louisville, Kentucky, Great Ohio River Flood

Bourke-White’s classic Great Depression photograph was originally only one of many images she made while covering a far more particular, localized catastrophe: namely the devastating Ohio River flood of 1937, which claimed close to 400 lives and left roughly one million people homeless across five states in the winter of that terrible year. (+)

Find more pictures here.

© Margaret Bourke-White, ca. 1931, George Washington Bridge, New York

"A politician is a man who will double cross that bridge when he comes to it." (Oscar Levant)

© Margaret Bourke-White, 1956, Segregation in South Carolina

LIFE reported that Greenville, South Carolina’s mayor Kenneth Cass (above, in tie) "does not subscribe to the notion that Negroes are inherently inferior. 'I wouldn't want to argue it with anybody, but I don't go along with that. It doesn't sound quite Christian to me. They're human beings just like everybody else.'

(find more pictures and information here)

© Margaret Bourke-White, 1946, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi working at a spinning wheel

The spinning wheel, a device used to make yarn or thread came to symbolize the notion of Indian self-sufficiency — and thus independence from British rule. This symbolism is also part of the Flag of India:

   © India Post, The first stamp of independent India, released on 21 Nov 1947

Before Margaret Bourke-White was allowed to photograph Gandhi, she was informed she would need to learn the spinning wheel - it’s said that she caught on quickly.

She was a friend to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi; in fact, she was the last person to interview him hours before his assassination in January 1948. It’s hardly surprising, really, that Bourke-White would be drawn to a figure like Gandhi. After all, for her entire career, she focused her lens on the human side of any issue — no matter how brutal or unsettling the subject matter — and Gandhi’s emphasis on liberty and dignity in the face of savage resistance spoke directly to her own passion for both justice and for adventure.

(similar post | more photos and information here)

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© Yasumasa Morimura, 2010, A requiem: spinning a thread between the light and the earth

© Margaret Bourke-White, 1946, Ghandi and His Spinning Wheel

Yasumasa Morimura’s ‘Requiem’ series inhabits and reinterprets iconic moments of the 20th century. Composed in four chapters, each of the photographs and films in ‘Requiem’ reperforms a moment when ideological tensions were embalmed on film.

‘Spinning a thread between the light and the earth’ is the final photograph of the final chapter. Chapter four, entitled ‘1945 - a flag on the summit of the battlefield’, commemorates the year that World War Two ended and Japan accepted defeat. After the violence of these events, Morimura chooses to depict Gandhi, the symbol of non-violent national independence and passive resistance, to close his series. In imitation of, and homage to Margaret Bourke-White’s 1946 portrait of Gandhi for Life magazine, Morimura-as-Gandhi leafs through images of the then future Vietnam war.

When Bourke-White’s portrait of Gandhi was originally published in 1946 it was accompanied by an article on the Mahatma’s gruelling experiments on his body, all of which seek to spiritually realize that ‘vows taken should be fulfilled in the letter as well as in the spirit’. Gandhi uses his corporeality as a vehicle to access deeper meanings, just as Morimura’s self-portraiture has always done. (read more)

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© Margaret Bourke-White, 1937, 'The Louisville Flood'

During the Great Ohio River Flood of 1937, at the height of the Great Depression, African Americans in Louisville, Kentucky, line up seeking food and clothing from a relief station, in front of a billboard ironically proclaiming, "World’s Highest Standard of Living."

Read more about the Great Ohio River flood and this picture here.

"Work is something you can count on, a trusted, lifelong friend who never deserts you." (Margaret Bourke-White)