Margaret Bourke-White’s pictures told the story of the Irving Air Chute Company in Buffalo, New York, the world’s largest manufacturer of parachutes.
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Few careers with a camera have been as narrated and celebrated as that of Margaret Bourke-White. With legendary fortitude and energy, Bourke-White time and again nailed the assignments she was given with formal brilliance and incisive descriptive power.
In this series of images, we feel a relaxing of her precision as she recorded an emblematic struggle between natural force and human ingenuity, between our limitations and the grand devices we create to defy them.
In the March 22, 1937 issue of LIFE, a publication just six months old, there was a cover story entitled “Parachutes.” Margaret Bourke-White’s pictures told the story of the Irving Air Chute Company in Buffalo, New York, the world’s largest manufacturer of parachutes. The photographic sequence of parachutes being tested by Irving employees in this book did not make the article in 1937, but survive instead as diminutive and precious vintage prints, as art. Their wonder is in their ambiguity, their lack of captions and context, their archetypal address of the questions of human importance, of who is really pulling the strings.
Printed in duotone on matt stock, and bound in Japanese saifu, this elegant little book is an important addition to the literature on this extraordinary artist. Introduction by Trudy Wilner Stack.