As a child in Cleveland, Margaret Bourke White, the Photographer, had a room of her own housing 25 turtles, a baby boa and 200 caterpillars. Her father was a naturalist. Later it was a question with her of which college had the best reptiles to study.
She tried Columbia first in 1922. There she tinkered with an elementary course in photography mostly for credits. A transfer to the University of Michigan brought her closer to her real interests, biology and herpetology (reptiles). To carry on, she returned to work in a paradise of turtles, snakes, and caterpillars, Cleveland's museum of natural history. In 1927 Margaret Bourke-White was a Cornell graduate, an AOPi, and her interest, but not her affection for reptiles, had waned.
Through her camera at Cornell Miss Bourke-White had started to catch beauty and expressiveness in stone and steel. She began photographing the campus because she needed money. Soon she had students selling her pictures for her.
In 1928-29 coupon-clippers were amazed and delighted to see Miss Bourke-White's pictures of soaring cranes and smokestacks on their stockholders' statements and dividend reports. When the depression came, manufacturers cut out the luxury of panegyrizing grimy Big Business.
Margaret Bourke-White's salary remains in the five-figure class. She wears Paris clothes, but she roughs it to photograph Russian peasants, floods, droughts, American workmen, all of which have come to interest her more than ice-boxes.
She keeps as pets in her New York studio two alligators and eight turtles.