Gail Rothschild

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats

1993


Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

During the late 1920s Margaret Bourke-White, who would later become Life Magazine's star photojournalist, took pictures of the thriving steel industry in The Flats, Cleveland's industrial zone. In those years before The Depression and before World War II, The Machine still represented the promise of a bright and modern future. And photography was the perfect medium with which to explore the wonders of the new technology: The Machine looking at The Machine.

Today, industry is gone from The Flats and, indeed, most of the Midwest. Bourke-White's camera has lkocked up the memory of molten steel. And what about the aestheticization of The Factory? In 1927 the image of a smokestack belching black smoke clouds clearly said, Progress. Today, our reaction is more ambivalent.

The installation is compromised of five oversized steel “camera” sculptures. Inside each camera is a three-dimensional re-presentation of one of Bourke-White's original photographs of the steel mills. In order to peek inside the box one must stand on a steel step and peer through the aperture.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.

Margaret Bourke-White Photographs The Flats, 1993
Steel and mixed media. 7'h; width and depth variable.