Silent Symphony Of Soaring Steel: The Photography Of Margaret Bourke-White

“… industrial forms were all the more beautiful because they were never designed to be beautiful. They had a simplicity of line that came from their direct application of purpose.” —Margaret Bourke-White, 1963

Few photographers, to my knowledge, captured the imposing majesty of 20th century industrialism with as much deftness and clarity as American journalist, Margaret Bourke-White (1904–1971).

White was a war-correspondant during WWII and came to be known to the staff of Life magazine as ‘Maggie the Indestructible’ for surviving a number of extraordinary circumstances, including abandonment in the artic, strafing by the Luftwaffe, a chopper crash in Chesapeake Bay, and the German bombardment of Moscow.

Presented below is a small selection of White’s prints of industrial scenes, ordered by date (20s to 30s), with historical commentary.

1974.217_o10.jpg
Tower and Smokestacks of Otis Steel Co., Cleveland, 1928. The company is notable for being the first to build a open-hearth steel furnace, in 1875, and which massively contributed to Ohio’s transformation into the second-largest producer of steel in the United States by the end of the 19th Century. Otis merged with the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., 1942, which itself merged with  Youngstown Sheet & Tube, 1977.
1972.246_o10.jpg
Untitled (Industrial Scene, Otis Steel Co., Cleveland)
1928.
1972.247_o10.jpg
Blast Furnace Operator with “Mud Gun,” Otis Steel Co., Cleveland
1928. Film of the era was sensitive to blue, but insensitive to orange and red (colors typical of steel mills like Otis Steel Co.) and so, to achieve shots such as the one above, White utilized a magnesium flare, that the image would be picked up with clarity, prevented from coming out all black.
1986.220_o10.jpg
Untitled (Train with Oil Cars, Otis Steel Co., Cleveland)
1928.
Hot Pigs (1928) MB White.png
Hot Pigs, Otis Steel Company, Cleveland
1928.
Heaped ore outside steel plant, brought by shipping along Great Lakes (1930) MB White.png
Heaped ore outside steel plant, brought by shipping along Great Lakes
1930.
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Ludlum Steel Company of Watervliet, New York, 1928 – 1931, a specialty steel manufacturer. The company merged with Allegheny Steel Company of Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, 1938.
Steel support struts inside several newl
Steel support struts inside newly constructed pipes to be installed in the diversion tunnel to carry the Missouri River around Fort Peck Dam construction, 1936.
main_1200.jpg
Margaret Bourke-White takes a photo from the 61st floor of the Chrysler Building, New York City, 1934.

If you appreciate our work and wish to support it, you can do so here (our site is completely reader-funded).

Eckermann’s Instruction—Goethe On Aesthetic Valuation

“Taste is only to be educated by contemplation, not of the tolerably good, but of the truly excellent. I, therefore, show you only the best works; and when you are grounded in these, you will have a standard for the rest, which you will know how to value, without overrating them. And I show you the best in each class, that you may perceive that no class is to be despised, but that each gives delight when a man of genius attains its highest point. For instance, this piece, by a French artist, is galant, to a degree which you see nowhere else, and is therefore a model in its way.”

—Goethe to Johnann Peter Eckermann.


Biographical notes:

§.00 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a multifaceted German artist, scientist and statesman. He was the author of the influential novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as numerous other works of fiction and nonfiction. The date of the first production of Richard Wagner’s opera Lohengrin—August 28th—was chosen by Liszt in honor of Goethe, as it was the same date as the late-artist’s birth (August 28th, 1749).

§.01 Johnann Peter Eckermann was a German author, soldier, multi-linguist, artist, and close friend of Goethe and Soret.


Sources

  1. Johann Peter Eckermann; translated by John Oxenford (2010). Conversations of Goethe with Johann Peter Eckermann. HXA.

Hauptsturmführer Fillenius (1944)

By Dan Klefstad


The Russians knew they had no chance; we surrounded them. They also knew we’d have no mercy, but they surrendered anyway. They gave up their weapons and helmets, hoping for cigarettes which we no longer had. Were they buying time? Somewhere across the drifting snow, their swine-kin prepared another attack, but we didn’t know when, or how many. So we tried beating the details out, smashing their fingers and noses with rifles. After burning precious calories, we huddled in our so-called “winter outfits” and stamped our feet to get the blood moving. Then we tried to strip their coats which covered neck-to-ankle with thick, coarse wool. I knew very little Russian but it was clear we’d have to shoot them first. That sealed their fate. I ordered my last surviving officer to line them up and empty our German guns into them; the captured ones work better when frozen, and we’d need those for the next assault.

A corporal limps toward me and salutes. “Herr Hauptsturmführer, shall we aim for the head? The coats would be intact then.”

“If you want pig brains on your collar, that’s your business.” I yank the magazine from my pistol and count the remaining ice-covered rounds. “I’ll take the three on the right.”

Up to now, I thought Der Führer might introduce a Super Weapon that would stop the Red Army from entering Germany, but when half our guns failed to perform a simple mass execution, I knew it was over. The war would go on for another fifteen months but this moment in Estonia is where the end began – for Germany and these mongrel fucks who surrendered everything but their coats. At least their weapons worked; my men were thrilled. I, however, counted every one of the eleven bullets they spent.

“Hauptsturmführer Fillenius!” Major Haas motions from a staff-car that must’ve arrived while we were firing. I walk quickly and salute, expecting a reprimand for wasting ammunition.

Haas ignores the bodies. “I’m going to Tallinn to prepare defenses there. Need I remind you of Der Führer’s directive?”

“Stand and fight. No retreat, no surrender.”

His driver, a lieutenant, salutes. “We know you’ll give your all for the Fatherland.”

I ignore him. “Can you send some food, cigarettes, bandages – anything?”

“I’ll assess the situation and let you know.” Haas motions to his driver who shifts into First. “Don’t let us down, Søren.”

His use of my Christian name is another sign that the “thousand-year Reich” will last little more than a decade. I salute once more as he drives toward the final sunset I expect to see. I try to savor it, but someone yells “Deckung!” and I jump into the nearest trench.

§

I’ve seen men hallucinate before they die, so I’m not surprised by the woman wearing a low-cut peasant-style dress. This moonlit vision is a lovely distraction from the gurgling in my throat and lungs. A sucking chest wound gets priority in any triage, but there’s no one left to plug the holes. Suffocating, I try to relax and enjoy this little film about an underdressed beauty walking toward me through white and crimson snow.

“You don’t look Russian,” I wheeze. “Estonian?”

She gathers the long fabric as she kneels, and I see blue veins in her large white breasts. Long fingernails like shell splinters descend toward me, and I wonder if she’ll gouge my eyes out. I close them as she brushes aside a stray forelock.

“Please.” My eyes reopen. “Just stay with me.”

“What a pity.” She says in English. “You look like an angel.” She fingers a pin on my uniform. “SS Nordland.” Then she frowns and grabs a handful of hair, lifting my face toward hers. “I could have used those prisoners you killed.”

I focus on her accent which is different from that of my language tutor in Copenhagen. “American?”

Her grip tightens. “You wasted them!”

Wasted. What did that mean? This was more than a war. It was a crusade against Slavs and other sub-humans, and Jewish bolshevism – a crusade I joined four years ago to help the Nazis take over my native Denmark. The fact that the Aryans failed means nothing matters anymore – nichts. Nearly defeated, I spend one of my remaining breaths on a question. “What do you want?”

“What do you want, Søren?”

Definitely a dream; even my dog-tags use an initial for my first name. But I consider her words. “Leave the war. Leave this fucking continent.”

Her eyes narrow as if preparing to divulge a secret. “I’m going to America.”

“Take me with you.”

Her fist tightens against my skull, eyes glow red, and lips part revealing two long canines. “You’re a monster,” she hisses. “Only a fellow hunter can go with me.”

“I… Who… What are you?”

Her mouth closes but her glowing eyes remain fixed on mine. Of all the things I expected to see while dying, I never imagined a seductive hellish creature calling me a monster. What does that make her? My frozen lips barely move: “Vampyr?”

She scowls. For a moment, she appears uncertain about what to do. Finally: “You’re useless now, nearly bloodless, but I can change you.” Her face is so close, our noses almost touch. “First, I’m going to give you something I never had: a choice.”

“Make me one of you.”

“You haven’t heard the terms.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“If I save you, the sun will be your mortal enemy. And your thirst will never end.”

“Please… ” I cough a final time as my lungs collapse.

Both her hands support my neck as she moves behind me. Then she rests my head in her lap and holds her right hand above my face. A nail slices her wrist and my head instinctively turns as blood rains down.

“Open.” Her fingers squeeze my jaw. The drops cover my face as I struggle for my last breath.

“Be still.”

§

When I awake, I hear a heart beating and know immediately who it belongs to. I sit up and hear his panicked breathing, but pause to take in the surroundings of a command bunker I visited once, now abandoned. Fiona relaxes in the Field Marshal’s former wing-chair, sipping from a glass of red liquid that I already know – I can smell it. And I want it.

“You can relax.” Fiona swallows. “It’s safe here.”

“Safe for whom?” He yells from across the room. “Hauptsturmführer Fillenius! Untie me and arrest this woman!”

“Sturmbannführer Haas,” I rise, noting the major’s civilian clothes. “Where did you go after you left our position?”

“To Tallinn – like I told you!”

“He’s lying.” Fiona examines her nails. “I found him at the Loksa Shipyard, arranging passage to neutral territory. He and his lieutenant – who’s delicious, by the way – had Swedish passports.”

I glare at him, sitting in a wooden chair, arms and legs bound. “Stand and fight, you said.” Then I see the passports on a nearby table, plus a dozen gold coins. “My men were killed – all of them – covering your rear.”

“Oh, I think Lieutenant Baumann covered his rear just fine, wouldn’t you say Major?” Fiona smiles as she takes another sip.

“Søren, listen.” Haas fixes his eyes on me. “She kidnapped us in Tallinn, planted that stuff on us, and killed Fritzi.”

“Don’t call me ‘Søren’ – I do not consort with cowards!”

Haas’s face wrinkles with disgust as he looks at Fiona. “Then, like an animal, she bit his neck and drank his blood.”

I inhale deeply, suddenly aware that my teeth are longer. Haas’s skin reveals a spider web of throbbing vessels, but I know which one to attack first. I glance at Fiona. “Can I take him now?”

Fiona looks amused as she leans back in the Field Marshal’s chair. “Permission granted, Hauptsturmführer.”

§

The Stockholm Palace looks stunning at night, yellow lights reflecting off the sandstone exterior. But the fact that a King lives there – plus the surrounding architecture, music, and fashions – reminds me that we’re still in Europe. I look at Fiona’s hands which rest on the wrought iron balcony, and place my right on her left. “I hear the war will be over soon.”

“Yes.”

“It should be safe to travel, no?”

“It’s never safe.” She looks at me. “The first leg, to England, is a small risk. We could take two or three passengers, but we’d have to share them. The second leg, though…”  She looks at the night sky. “That would be seven or eight – again, shared – so we’d still be starving. If we’re alive when we get to New York, the police will know something’s wrong and board the ship. All they need is a little luck and they’ll find our trunk.”

“Why not have separate trunks?”

“That doubles the chances they’ll find one. If they discover you or me, they’ll keep looking.”

“Remind me. Why are we doing this?”

She points west. “Because that’s where we’ll get dinner every night.” She waves toward the city. “They just had two devastating wars, and God knows if the Russians are finished marching. There aren’t enough people to hide behind while we make the others disappear.”

I gaze at the rising moon and imagine how it looks from New York, Boston, or Chicago. Then I lift my glass. “To America. May we thrive among her teeming multitudes.”

“To whoever controls the universe,” Fiona raises hers. “May she still need us enough to grant safe passage.”

###

Logos Eclipsed: The Source of the Dark Idol’s Power, Prt.1

On the 12th of August, 2017, in Bedminster, NJ, President Donald J. Trump gave a public statement regarding the recent violence which erupted during the Unite The Right (UTR) rally in Charlottesville, Virginia – a two-fold event staged to both unifying all portions of the dissident, nationalist right (whether ethno or civic nationalist) and protest the planned demolition of the Robert E. Lee memorial located in Charlottesville’s historic Emancipation Park (formerly, Lee Park).  The POTUS emphantically stated:


“We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence – on many sides, on many sides.” [D.J.T., August 12th, 2017]


Scathing criticism from his Washington contemporaries swiftly follow starting with Republican senator, Cory Gardner who, with sincerest shallowness declared to the press, “-[Donald Trump] call this white supremacism, this white nationalism, evil. Let the country hear it, let the world hear it. Its something that needs to come from the Oval Office and this White House needs to do it today.”


Trump made another statement two days later on August 14 from the White House where he declared that, “Racism is evil and those who do violence in its name are criminals and thugs – including the KKK, neo-nazis, white supremacist and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything that we hold dear as Americans.” August 15, the POTUS made another public statement on the matter, stating firmly, “-I think there is blame on both sides [regarding the C-ville riots] and I have no doubt about it and you (the press) don’t have any doubt about it either.” Later he remarked, “You had a group on one side that was bad [the UTR marches] and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent [Antifa].” He went on to say of the UTR attendees, “-you had many people in that group other than neo-nazis and white nationalists.”

Trump’s arch-nemisis, the odious, slithering CNN (Cable News Network) utilized his comments as fodder for a libelous campaign so predictable that I shall not even here recount it. Suffice it to say that many anti-Trump pundits in the media self-righteously declared that the POTUS was a deranged water-carrier for “the white supremacists,” despite the fact that, objectively speaking, the POTUS’ statements were entirely accurate – indeed, they were, if anything too even-handed as pertains to the reality of the events of UTR (Trump also, as far as I am aware, failed to mention the cops which were told to stand down from securing the perimeter of the event and preventing the very violence that erupted due to the baying mob of “anti-racist” protesters – this, due the GOP’s deplorable habit of mindlessly deifying police officials).

I shall waste no time in either attacking or defending President Trump or any of the associated defenders and detractors concerning the affair for it has been extensively covered elsewhere and information pertaining thereto is easy found. Rather, I think it would be imminently more useful to turn our attention to the through-line that weaves all the President’s detractors together – “white supremacy” and “racism.” In my article, The ism-Conundrum, I extensively covered the profligate and oft erroneous or otherwise context free usage of the term “racism,” a distortion-tendency which has only re-intensified with the explosive events of Charlottesville that culminated in the deaths of three individuals. Fault was laid rather predictably upon the Dark Idol of racism and foundationless hatred who looms o’er the world like a colossus, straddling the globe and strangling all good mirth and camaraderie with his steely, vice-like grip. No protestation shall avail you once that terrible entity clasps its hands about your throat! All but the bravest (or most foolish!) fall silent beneath the throttling.

The Dark Idol is peculiar in that it is not merely a fable but a real and present force, but yet a force which was borne more of half-truths than clear-and-present reality.

“Race” is a very old word that is theorized to have developed from the Latin radix, meaning a root or, more informally, the source or origin of something. Then there is the German reiza, which denotes one’s familial heredity. The list could go on and on. The connective semantic factor between both words as well as our modern English coinage, race, is a demarcation of “that from which something comes.” This can be witnessed all throughout the ages; there have been a panoply of different commonly utilized words across innumerable cultures (specifically, but not exclusively, western ones) that informally use race (or the foreign, linguistic equivalent thereof) as a synonym for various social norms, both positive and negative but – and surprisingly to modern westerners – generally positive. If one is surprised by this one will be even more surprised to learn it is still common practice in the west to this very day. For instance, consider the courteous compliment to bonny females that can still be heard in some portions of modern-day France, elle est de bonne race, meaning, she is of good breed or character, in Croatia, to say a woman is rasna (raceful) is a another similar compliment. Consider the kind of baleful attention you, dear reader, would attract should you, in passing a attractive young woman, possessed of distinctive ethnic traits, say that she looks “raceful!” Why the very next instant you should be shouted clean from the room, and like as not trounced from your job, deserted by all loose associates – your friends and family may even distance themselves from you – and most assuredly your local reputation would be irrevocably shattered, for you would be – drumroll – a (gasp) racist (shudder!) – and all because you dared to comment upon a starkly manifest reality.

Indeed, this is precisely what has and is happening to numerous individuals (whom are predominately, but by no means exclusively white Europeans) all across the western world. Consider the case of Samuel T. Francis, a notable political columnist who worked extensively and prominently for the widely syndicated, staunchly conservative US publication, The Washington Times.  Many of Francis columns were controversial. In 1994 Francis attended a conference hosted by American Renaissance (Amren) one of the largest and most popular white advocacy groups in the country. A year later the Goan-Dravidic conservative writer, Dinesh D’Souza wrote a column detailing a speech Francis had given at Amren where he had argued strongly against racial intermarriage and asserted that “whites” needed to reawaken their “racial consciousness.” For this commentary he was summarily fired and effectively black-balled from ever again participating not just in journalism or opinion columnism but in many different circles of “polite” society.

Many Americans today (and certainly many in the past), especially those of a left-centrist, leftist progressive or “color-blind” conservative streak (such as D’Douza) may well think his firing justified. Indeed, I’d say that even if he had made no such beyond-the-pale remark his employers at the Times should have been able to fire him for good reasons, bad reasons or no reasons at all – such is the nature of true freedom of association – any other arrangement would require government overreach and to see why that is a bad thing all one has to do is look about at the fractal scorching that mass corporatism has wrought upon the United States of America or most any other industrialized western nation. That being said, all he did was talk, and he didn’t talk violently and he wasn’t argued down. No one came up and said, he you can think what you want just be a doll and don’t put that in the paper. No he was simply X’d off the list. You’re not allowed to think those kinds of things. Most certainly, you cannot dare to talk about them, even if it is only in your own good time!

Course Francis is far from alone in this, there’s James Watson, the scientist who was forced out of his profession and shunned from polite society because he commented on the effects of aggregate IQ on human populations in Africa (a empirical point, mind you), then there is Daniel Dennett who demands that we “just don’t need to know” some things and anything scientific pertaining to race is one of them. Why? Because he is terrified of being called the R-word. Racist. Of course. Why else? Then there is former newman and WH strategist, Steve Bannon and POTUS Donald Trump who both have had a strange imagine project onto them that is entirely incongruent with reality wherein they appear to the left-wing establishment media as some kind of deranged, Nazi-beasts who are rubbing their hands together and grinning at the prospect of annihilating some poor colored folk for no other reason then that they are just that evil. Then there is the Indy 500 race-car driver, Terry Frie who was fired immediately after he posted a message to his social media which stated that he felt “uncomfortable” with a “Japanese driver” winning the Indy 500 on memorial day; a innocuous statement which is in no way different from any of the blacks or hispanic citizens of the country state that they were “afraid” because Steven Bannon or Jeff Sessions was in the White House. Even the ultra-centrist social philosopher and neuroscience, Sam Harris has been accused of “racism” for simply talking to political scientist, Charles Murray (a libertarian) about human IQ measurements and methodologies. It matters not, of course, that one is talking about facts because to the modern American mind, those facts are racist.

Such is the lunacy the Dark Idol inspires. Make not, unto it, any appropriations lest its tenebrous tendrils slither unto your mind.

Yet we must ask, where did all of this madness come from – what is it’s radix? To answer that question we must trace the etymology of the word “racism” itself. For as previously stated “race” is a very old word, yet “racism” and “racist” are quite curiously recent linguistic conventions in the vast weave of history’s loom.

The word “racism” first entered the popular consciousness of the western world in the 1930s with the publication of the posthumous book titled (what else) Racism (1938). The book was written by the German-Jewish sexologist, Magnus Hirschfeld who is today remembered on the website Gendernetwork as the “Father of Transgenderism,” due to his tireless crusading on the behalf of what he considered to be sexual minorities. In fact, Hirshfeld was so dedicated to the cause of sexual liberation of “oppressed” classes that he created a organization called the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee) specifically to further those ends. The SHC was created in Berlin with the primary aim of working for the benefit of homosexuals in the overturning of penal codes which could potentially put them behind bars (Hirshfeld and his associates argued that such laws encourage blackmail and were needlessly hostile towards those who were attracted to the same sex). The motto of the organization was: Justice Through Science, which starkly reflected Hirshfeld and the Komitee’s deeply held belief that a more thorough understanding of the science of sexuality would lead to a more just and affable relationship between homosexuals and heterosexuals. Much like his contemporaries – Alfred Kinsey, Havelock Ellis and Albert Moll – Hirshfeld was not merely a scientist-turned-social-rights-advocate but also a radical ideologue who adhered to the doctrine of “sexual liberation,” i.e. the continuous removal of all sexual norms and taboos in the pursuit of “living the good life” by bringing about an ever greater leveling of persons, institutions, values and traditions.

In his book, Racism, Hirshfeld harshly and scathingly critiques the most prominent racial beliefs of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was often correct in his criticism of racial ideology, though much of what he critiqued was not as he claimed “psuedo-science” but simply, developing science, or in certain fields, pre or non scientific. Such categories bare distinction. It should also be noted that (likely because of demography) the majority of Hirshfeld’s “anti-racism” did not focus on extra-ethnic groups and their interplay with Europeans at large but rather, focused most intensively upon intra-ethnic conflicts within the European peoples such as those which occurred in the then-popular sub-racial Euro-categories: Nordics, Alpines, Dinarics and Mediterraneans. Blacks, hispanics, arabs and other “people of color” occupied little of his time. Also curious about Hirshfeld’s racial critiques was the fact that he paid almost no mind to the rising anti-Jewish attitudes where were becoming evermore pervasive within the Weimar Republic. In point of fact, Hirshfeld was far more critical of his own Jewish kin than the German out-group, oft issuing scathing dissections exposing the Semitic tendency towards extreme ethnocentrism. Indeed, he denounced every form and fashion of ethnocentric attachment, save for one notable exception, that being Stalinist Russia. This spiritual or philosophical orientation towards Stalin’s ostensible paradise was due Hirshfeld own deeply held sense of elemental anti-nationalism and collective humanism. For instance, the sexologist styled himself as a “Pan-Humanist” and his work starkly reflects it, a passage from his book states:


“The individual, however close the ties of neighborhood, companionship, family, a common lot, language, education, and the environment of nation and country, can find only one dependable unity within which to seek a permanent spiritual kinship – that of humanity-at-large, that of the whole human race.” (Racism, M. H., 1938)


One can here see how very similar Hirschfeld’s notions of human universalism and sexual liberation are to today’s mainstream views on such topics.

Here there are echos. Echoes we must follow as they trammel up the consequences of the age.

[continued in part 2]