In a celebrated career spanning decades, LIFE photographer Margaret Bourke-White fearlessly documented countless facets of the human experience, from the aspirational (the building of Montana's monumental Fort Peck Dam) to the barbaric (Nazi concentration camps). Her trailblazing assignments, for LIFE and as a freelancer, ranged from stories about the Soviet Union in the late 1920s to a riveting feature on segregation in the American South in the 1950s. She was the first woman photographer to fly on bombing runs into Germany during World War II. And on and on and on.
Bourke-White was also, it turns out, a friend to—as well as a close chronicler of the extraordinary life of—Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It's hardly surprising, really, that Bourke-White would be drawn to a figure like Gandhi. After all, for her entire career, she focused her lens on the human side of any issue—no matter how savage or unsettling the subject matter—and Gandhi's emphasis on liberty and dignity in the face of brutal resistance and oppression spoke directly to her own passion for both justice and adventure.
Here, including many pictures never published in LIFE, are some of Bourke-White's most revealing, intimate glimpses of the spiritual leader and revolutionary thinker known to generations of Hindus as the "Great Soul."