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June 20, 2013

21 Stunning Vintage Photographs of the United States From Above in 1952

Sixty years ago the notion of a photographer going up in a helicopter to take pictures of landscapes, monuments, buildings and other notable sights from the air was novel enough to warrant a 12-page article in LIFE magazine. That Margaret Bourke-White was the photographer who climbed aboard various “whirlibirds” to make the singular, vertiginous photos, however, would hardly come as a shock to LIFE’s readers back then, or to photojournalism buffs today.

In the spring of 1952, when she traveled around the country, photographing both world famous and utterly nondescript sites (and sights) in New York, California, Illinois, Indiana and elsewhere from the vantage point of a helicopter, few who knew anything of her career would be surprised. The pictures were made from a helicopter are simply and unabashedly cool.

The Statue of Liberty

The George Washington Bridge

Midtown Manhattan (with the entrance to a cross-river tunnel visible at lower left)

Columbus Circle, New York City

Coney Island, Brooklyn

Beach accident, the near drowning of a Coney Island bather named Mary Eschner, draws knot of people. Reviving victim lies in center, attended by lifeguards. Some bathers (foreground) wave a helicopter as they run from water.

Location unknown (New York State)

Back Bay, Virginia

Trains after snowfall, Chicago

Grain elevator, operated by the Norris Grain Co. on the southeast side of Chicago, unloads corn from lake boat in a Calumet River slip (right foreground). In the freight yards (background) snow-covered gondola cars are loaded with coal.

Chicago's famous Wrigley Building looks like candy castle from a helicopter above spire. Building is split in two parts and a railroad track runs between them. Behind them is Chicago River, with Michigan Avenue bridge.

Pittsburgh Steamship Co. ship carrying ore to US Steel plant, Gary, Indiana

Steel plant, Gary, Indiana

Water skiers and motorboats speed across the water, Long Beach, California

Freight train traveling through the El Cajon Pass outside San Diego, California

Coronado Hotel and its surroundings, San Diego, California

Golden Gate Bridge

Ocean Beach, San Francisco, California

Farm workers harvesting onions, Burbank, California

Beach riders guide their horses along the shore at high tide at Ocean Beach, near Fort Funston, California, as the long, low Pacific rollers make mountain like patterns of the surf.

Over the Texas star on the San Jacinto Monument near Houston, helicopter-borne camera looks sharply down 570-foot shaft to steps and parking space below. Tower marks spot where Sam Houston defeated General Santa Anna in 1836.

(Photographs by Margaret Bourke-White—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)



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