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History as it was made

books Updated: May 21, 2012 15:11 IST

Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Witness To Life And Freedom: Margaret Bourke-White In India And Pakistan
Photo and Text editor Pramod Kapoor
Roli n R595 n pp 144


For Life magazine’s photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White — the first woman correspondent during World War II, the first American to get an official entry into the Soviet Union as well as one of the very few women photographers in pre-Partition 1940s India — going into the books seemed like a habit. She travelled across India and Pakistan between 1947 and 1948 and got some of her finest shots in places and at moments she least expected.

Witness To Life And History is an expansive repository of her works at a time when emotions were running high and one man’s patriotism was another man’s bloodletting. Publisher Pramod Kapur has sifted through Bourke-White’s photographs and has brought us an excellent visual documentary. Along with a moving foreword by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, an opening essay by Vicki Goldberg, Bourke-White’s biographer, provides a textual harness to the book.

Apart from capturing the horrors of the Partition, Bourke-White captures the ‘ordinary’ emotions of people in extraordinary times. Her photos aren’t just about documenting the pains of a birth of a nation. They are also expressions of human emotions that are familiar some 63 years after they were first displayed.