Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Bourke-White, and the Popular Front

Photojournalism in Russia

Title Details

Pages: 352

Illustrations: 42 b&w images

Trim size: 6.120in x 9.250in



Pub Date: 12/15/2016

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5022-6

List Price: $39.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of Friends Fund

Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Bourke-White, and the Popular Front

Photojournalism in Russia

A collaboration between two midcentury powerhouses

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  • Description
  • Reviews

Erskine Caldwell’s novels Tobacco Road (1932) and God’s Little Acre (1933) made the author a popular and critically acclaimed chronicler of the South but also a controversial one, due to his work’s political themes and depictions of sexuality. Margaret Bourke-White, fresh from her role as staff photographer for Fortune, became the first female photojournalist for LIFE in 1936, and her iconic images graced its covers and helped solidify the magazine as a preeminent visual periodical.

When Caldwell and Bourke-White married in 1939, they were both celebrities, popular and provocative in equal measures because of their leftist politics and their questioning of American cultural norms. They collaborated on the photodocumentary books You Have Seen Their Faces (1937), North of the Danube (1939), and Say, Is This the U.S.A. (1941). In the summer of 1941, the couple entered Russia on assignment and were there when the Germans invaded on June 22. As a result, Caldwell and Bourke-White were the first Americans to report on the Russian war front by broadcast radio and continued to transmit almost daily newspaper articles about the Russian reaction to the war. Their international celebrity and their clout within the Soviet literary establishment provided them remarkable access to people and places during their five-month stay. Their final collaboration, Russia at War (1942), is a culmination of their work during that time.

Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Bourke-White, and the Popular Front traces and analyzes the couple’s collaborations, the adventures that led to them, the evolving political stances that informed them, and the aftereffects and influences of their work on their careers and those of others. Both biographically revealing and analytically astute, author Jay Caldwell offers a profound, new perspective on two of America’s most renowned midcentury artists at the peaks of their careers.

Though Erksine Caldwell’s and Margaret Bourke-White’s biographies provide respectively broader life summaries, Jay Caldwell’s work focuses exclusively upon the variations and complexities of their collaborative works. For readers seeking insight into how Caldwell’s and Bourke-White’s respective works were shaped by their daily experiences and associations, Erskine Caldwell, Margaret Bourke-White, and the Popular Front is ‘a must read!'

—Harvey L. Klevar, author of Erskine Caldwell: A Biography

A thoroughly researched and thoughtful investigation of the work and lives of two extraordinary, and under-recognized artists by an author with a unique insight into the material. This book offers a fascinating and well-written window into both the personal and professional collaboration of both Caldwell and Bourke-White and the important work they did together.

—Dan Miller

This well written and carefully constructed study . . . . provides finely drawn portraits of two legendary artists at the top of their game and a careful critique of their social, political, and cultural impact on a war-torn world and beyond.

—Bruce J. Dinges, The Journal of Arizona History

About the Author/Editor

JAY E. CALDWELL, the son of Erskine Caldwell, received his PhD in English from the University of Arizona in 2014. Prior to that he had a thirty-year career in the private practice of sports medicine. Currently he is an independent scholar of literature and the medical director for the Center for Drug Problems in Anchorage, Alaska.