Doren Damico
Keeping My Eye on The Creative Life

I’m working. Going to school full time. Very BUSY doing school things, so not much writing. Oh, wait! I wrote a play! My first ever! Current title: Letters of Rejection.

Yup. Doing that too. All my 2018 writing submissions sans 2 still pending, have been rejected. No matter. I’m brave, determined, highly creative and still searching for the elusive, but oh, so real treasures of the creative life!

My current efforts are a new book to be published in just two weeks! A Fine Line: Beginner’s Mind Graphic Design is… an exploration of my early graphic designs using new media, and an introduction to the concepts of beginner’s mind, the aesthetics of shibusa, and zen koans. (I’ll post more information and a few of the designs in another post.)

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share some drawings I’m doing in school, and talk about a phenomenal woman and photographer I encountered when doing a class project: Margaret Bourke-White!

Margarete Bourke White

The Photo: A girl with dark hair and eyes, holds her doll and stares into the camera. She has scarring on her chin and dirt on her face. Her doll looks old and worn. She has an intense, almost accusatory look. This photo was likely taken when Margaret Bourke-White was doing foreign correspondence as a photojournalist for Life Magazine. I could not find a specific date or name for this photograph, only that it originated in a Life magazine archive.

Margaret Bourke-White was an American photographer who worked from 1927 to 1957, stopping only to valiantly battle Parkinson’s disease. She began her career with an interest in architectural and industrial photography, and later worked as a photo journalist, capturing many influential photos. Her most recognized work represents both a revelation of the human experience in conflict and at war, and the bravery that helped her capture those photographs. She worked abroad during World War II where she recorded famous photos of a concentration camp. She chronicled the India-Pakistan partition violence, interviewing Gandhi just hours before his assassination, caught violent glimpses of the Korean War , and also covered industry in communist Russia — the first photojournalist they allowed to take photos. Her unbound courage led to phenomenal and famous photographs in magazines, galleries, and the photography hall of fame, as well as seven books (and photography collections) written by Margaret Bourke-White, herself.

My Sketch of Margaret's Photo

Library of Congress Biography of Margaret

Margaret Bourke-White’s work reflects not only the intense situations and people that were her subjects, but her role as a brave female photographer in a time where women were not so easily accepted in such roles. Her work was made even more prominent and important because she worked for the mass media picture magazines, Life and Fortune. Highly driven, she faced dangerous and critical political situations to make a record for others. She was well known for working hard to be right where the news was happening, and was the first woman and photojournalist, to cover many scenes. She was also a writer, penning several books and articles to accompany her collections of photography. The impact of her work is still relevant today, as an historical record and as a representation of innovative journalism by a woman.

I had an assignment to copy a master artist with a given list of most artists being men, and doing classical or impressionist art. I was thrilled when I discovered Margaret Bourke-White on the list.

When I saw this photo, I immediately wanted to see if I could capture the intensity in the girl’s eyes, if I could convey the weight of the context hidden in the darkness behind her. The power of this piece is its juxtaposition of a child’s innocence with the apparent suffering on the child’s scarred face and the worn nature of the doll she holds. The child seems to ask “why,” not in a weakened voice, so much as with a burning inner cry for justice. The most exciting moment for me was as I drew the reflections in the eyes, I could see the silhouette of Margaret Bourke-White centered there within the light. I felt as if I was seeing her through the child’s eyes, a woman determined to tell essential stories about the human capacity for creating strife and the amazing perseverance to withstand suffering.

Margaret Bourke-White penned an autobiography, Portrait of Myself, which I found as an online archived pdf (and haven’t yet read, but I intend to do so)! In reading some short biographies of her on the internet, I was intrigued by her adventurous and indomitable spirit and her commitment to career as a powerful mission–which resulted in her having no children. Another strange anecdote was that she burned all her journals late in her illness. People have theorized she didn’t want the world to know the woman who was grounded by a neurological disorder, but rather to remember the woman who did this: 

Photo by Oscar Graubner

Some Drawings


Hanging Out With The Moon – a negative space study, ink.

My White Horse – a crosshatching study, ink.

Saying Goodbye to Mom at The Beach – first foray into charcoal

While I’d like to continue to develop my drawing skills, I’m much more inclined to the tech based graphic design I’m learning. I also think I’m in love with photography and never knew it! This summer I’ll be looking through the lens to see what I can see.  For now, here’s one last look at Margaret Bourke-White and her cameras.

Related Articles

About author View all posts Author website

Doren Damico

Doren is a salsa dancing philosopher poet, slinky sculptor, and fan of science fiction.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  • You are amazing. So much talent, so much strength, so much caring for the underdogs of society. It is a privilege to know you.