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Margaret Bourke-White "Buchenwald" 1945
[Celebrating The Negative]
1945 (original image) 2008 (publication)
Gelatin silver print
Time-Life Lab, New York City
Hands: John Loengard, 3.4.92
"The sights I have just seen are so unbelievable that I don't think I'll believe them myself until I've seen the photographs," Margaret Bourke-White wrote in the captions accompanying her film sent from Germany in April, 1945. "Hundreds of dead naked bodiesąpiles of bones, a gallows, a row of incineratorsą. But worse than the actual dead are the living dead. And Buchenwald is still inhabited by thousands of these."
"I had a deep conviction," she would write later, "that an atrocity like this demanded to be recorded. So I forced myself to map the place with negatives."
Bourke-White used one 2A x 3A inch film pack and eleven #120 rolls of film that day taking about 150 pictures. On the pack's last sheet is the only exposure she made of inmates lined up at a fence outside the camp hospital (red masking has been applied to the negative's edges).
Life magazine's sole story on the liberation of the death camps used two other Bourke-White pictures, both taken inside a barracks. This picture, possibly the most unforgettable taken that day, was first published in 1960 in an issue celebrating the magazine's 25th anniversary.
"Using the camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me," Bourke-White wrote in her autobiography. When she first saw prints of her pictures, she wept.
This photograph is included in the portfolio Celebrating the Negative photographs by published by John Loengard, Etherton Gallery (2008), pl. 14
All photographs copyright ® John Loengard. Gelatin silver prints printed by Chuck Kelton, Kelton Labs, New York City, under the direct supervision of John Loengard. Printed on Ilford Multigrade Warm Glossy paper. Design and portfolio box construction by Jace Graf, Cloverleaf Studio, Austin, Texas.
Celebrating The Negative/Photographs by John Loengard was published by Etherton Gallery, Tucson, Arizona, in March, 2008, in an edition of eighteen portfolios, including fifteen numbered copies and three artist's proofs.