By the decisive spring of 1945, Allied Forces had entered Germany and were pushing towards the Rhine River. A series of bombing campaigns destroyed a number of major cities, crippling German industry and leading to the defeat of the Third Reich. Among the war correspondents who chronicled the destruction of German industry was Margaret Bourke-White, a photojournalist on assignment for Life magazine. Among the hundreds of photographs she snapped during her time as a war correspondent is an image of the wrecked Hoherzollen Bridge in Cologne, Germany. It is not a well-known photograph her images of ruined German cities would soon be eclipsed by her chronicling of concentration camp horrors but it reflects her function as a war correspondent charged with informing the public. Simultaneously, however, the photo reflects her keen sense of artistry honed by years of pioneering industrial photography and glorifying the machine age. The photograph thus echoes two warring impulses.
[...] “Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly”: A Report on the Collapse of Hitler's “Thousand Years.” New York: Simon and Schuster Bourneuf, Anne Peterson. The Angel of Photography. Harvard Thesis Brown, Theodore. Margaret Bourke-White, photojournalist. Ithaca, NY: Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art, Cornell University Denny, Harold. “Luftwaffe Tries to Halt 1st Army: Germans Scrape Up Everything Available for Night and Day Attack on Forward Units LITTLE DAMAGE REPORTED Allied Bombs Hit Hohenzollern Bridge, Last Railways Span Over Rhine from Cologne.” The New York Times 03 March 1945: 2. [...]
[...] With a belief in the sacred value of fact, no matter how distressing, and operating on the assumption that fact and beauty are supportive partners, she joins a long line of artists Constable, Thoureau, Van Gaogh, Whitman, Eakins, Matthew Brady, Pael Strand, Alfred Stieglitz who also wove the two into the fabric of their art. Hohenzollern Bridge, taken in a moment that later became insignificant when measured against the rest of Bourke-White's work, is a testament to her ability to weave together both art and photojournalism, fact and beauty. [...]
[...] Caught: The Art of Photography in the German Democratic Republic. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Margaret Bourke-White: Photographer. Text by Sean Callahan. Bulfinch Press: Little, Brown and Company Ranke, Winfried. August Sander: Die Zerstörung Kölns : Photographien 1945- 46. München: Schirmer/Mosel, c1985. Margaret Bourke-White: Photographer, Text by Sean Callahan (Bulfinch Press: Little, Brown and Company, 1998) Vicki Goldberg, Margaret Bourke-White: A Biography, New York: Harper and Row Margaret Bourke White, Portrait of Myself (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963) Margaret Bourke White, “Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945). [...]
[...] Today the most popular postcard views of the Hohenzollern Bridge are taken from the Deutz side in order to capture both the cathedral and the bridge. Bourke- White's photograph fulfills a very different function; it demonstrates the clear destruction of the bridge for use as a railway. The two left-hand roads, filled with a multitude of tracks, end in a pile of rubble right before the river. This represented a coup for Allied bombing, as reported by The New York Times: Today both Royal Air Force and American bombers attacked the Hohenzollern bridge at Cologne. [...]
[...] By the spring of 1945, then, Bourke-White was an experienced photographer and a seasoned war correspondent, so much so that her time in Cologne barely registers as a blip when she and others reflect upon the whole span of her life. In Vicki Goldberg's seminal biography of Bourke-White, for instance, Cologne is never mentioned. In Bourke-White's own autobiography, her time spent photographing destroyed German cities is given scarcely a full paragraph. I left the Forgotten Front and flew by way of Paris into Germany to the exceedingly lively front on the River Rhine. [...]
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