Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Gandhi at the Spinning Wheel

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gandhi_mbw

It was the defining portrait of one of the 20th century’s most influential figures, but the picture almost didn’t happen. LIFE magazine’s first female photographer, Margaret Bourke-White was in India in 1946 to cover the impending Indian independence. She was all set to shoot when Gandhi’s secretaries stopped her: If she was going to photograph Gandhi at the spinning wheel (a symbol for India’s struggle for independence), she first had to learn to use one herself.

It was a rare photo-op and Bourke-White was not going to lose it. She learnt how to use the spinning wheel, but further demands followed–Gandhi wasn’t to be spoken to (it being his day of silence.) And because he detested bright light, Bourke-White was only allowed to use three flashbulbs. The humid Indian weather wreaked havoc on her camera equipment, too. She tried to take the picture without flash, but the bright Indian day hindered her further. [Less than stellar pictures can be seen here and here]

When time finally came to shoot, Bourke-White’s first flashbulb failed. And while the second one worked, she forgot to pull the slide, rendering it blank.She thought it was all over, but luckily, the third attempt was successful. In the end, she came away with an image that became Gandhi’s most enduring representation. 

 

 

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 7, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Politics, Society

Tagged with ,

5 Responses

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  1. [...] and closest friends, Cartier-Bresson was easily granted a photo session with Gandhi (something not all photographers can hope for). As soon as Gandhi broke his last fast, Cartier-Bresson managed to photograph Gandhi. Among these [...]

  2. [...] criticized for being an advocate of poverty. Although he tried to rough the caste system up, the iconic photo of the great teacher, at his spinning wheel, has often been interpreted as a symbol of his profound [...]

    Poverty in America

    September 2, 2011 at 3:28 am

  3. [...] criticized for being an advocate of poverty. Although he tried to rough the caste system up, the iconic photo of the great teacher, at his spinning wheel, has often been interpreted as a symbol of his profound [...]

  4. As technology advances, and leaves many with idle hands today, one has to ask if Gandhi looked at the advancement in mechanized weaving as something that is not good for his people. One machine could replace the production of a village, which without the income of a home spinning business would starve his people. We can see this today as 100 jobs are replaced by one man and a computer. Computers, although a great invention, may be the demise of a civilization. And in the end, only the ultra affluent will be able to enjoy the leisure time that technology has brought us.

    Paul Rasid

    October 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  5. [...] (from http://iconicphotos.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/gandhi-at-the-spinning-wheel/ ) [...]


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