1933 Margaret Bourke-White "George Washington Bridge" Photograph

Value (2010) | $20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction

This is a photograph that was given to my aunt right at the end of the Second World War by Margaret Bourke-White. They met each other in Europe. My aunt was working with the displaced persons at the end of the war. In fact, my aunt was very senior in the administration, and many millions of people they had to relocate back to homes that were thousands of miles, I guess, from where they'd been forced to flee from.

So, what part of Europe did your aunt work in?

She talked about France and Germany. I think most of the time she was in Germany.

Well, your aunt sounds like a remarkable woman, and Margaret Bourke-White was a remarkable woman as well. She was a woman of many firsts. She was the first woman photographer to be hired by Henry Luce for Fortune magazine.


She was the first American photojournalist to go to Russia in 1930. She was the first photographer to have a cover image on Life magazine in 1936, and during the Second World War she was the first woman combat photographer and actually was in Buchenwald in Germany, liberating the prisoners in the concentration camps. But if we go back and look at this picture, what you have is a picture of the George Washington Bridge during construction that she did as part of a photo essay for Fortune magazine, which was the first American magazine to really focus on the industrial landscape, the corporate landscape. And what Margaret Bourke-White brought to her images was a very sophisticated sensibility that drew on a Modernist aesthetic, an artistic aesthetic, but also an appreciation for the machine, for the industrial age. You have a vintage photograph, which of course is the preferred photograph. It was done in 1933, and if we look at the edges of the photograph, we see that they have this black border. This is characteristic of what Bourke-White elected in her exhibition prints. The picture is, of course, mounted, and she has her penciled signature, which indicates it is a final print.

Oh, okay.

An exhibition print. At auction, an estimate that I would place would be $20,000 to $30,000.


It's probably one of Margaret Bourke-White's ten best photographs.


Thank you so much for bringing it in.

Wow, that's... that's amazing. I wouldn't have had any idea that it was worth that.

When you walked in, the blood started coursing through my veins. (chuckling):

I saw that. (laughing)

Appraisal Details

Swann Auction Galleries
New York, NY
Appraised value (2010)
$20,000 Auction$30,000 Auction
Washington, DC (August 21, 2010)

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