“Photography is a very subtle thing. You must let the camera take you by the hand, as it were, and lead you into your subject.” Margaret Bourke-White (1904-1971) led the rest of us by the hand on many occasions. In 1929 she did the lead story for the first issue of Fortune, and the next year was the first Western photographer allowed into the Soviet Union. In 1936 she collaborated with future husband Erskine Caldwell on a book documenting the rural poor of the South, You Have Seen Their Faces. Later that year she became—along with Alfred Eisenstaedt, Thomas McAvoy, and Peter Stackpole—one of the four original LIFE photographers, and had the cover shot for the very first issue.
She was America’s first accredited woman photographer in WWII, and the first authorized to fly on a combat mission. She was one of the first to depict the death camps, and later became the last person to interview Gandhi, six hours before he was slain. Her hundreds of thousands of photographs are about adventure, sensitivity, composition, and courage.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers