Mydans, Carl 1907-2004

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MYDANS, Carl 1907-2004


See index for CA sketch: Born May 20, 1907, in Boston, MA; died of heart failure August 16, 2004, in Larchmont, NY. Photographer, journalist, and author. Mydans, a famous photographer for Life magazine over a six-decade period, was best known for his many pictures capturing events in World War II. Graduating from Boston University in 1930, he worked briefly for American Banker magazine. Originally interested in writing, it was while at this magazine that he took up photography. His work began appearing in magazines such as Time, and this led to his being hired by the federal government's Farm Security Administration. Along with now-famous photographer Dorothea Lange, Mydans captured images of people suffering through the Great Depression, and this experience taught him to focus on the emotions reflected on people's faces as the most telling images of an event. When World War II began in Europe in 1939, Mydans, who had joined the Life staff three years previously, was assigned to cover events on the Russian-Finnish border. He then went to Asia just before the United States entered the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and was in the Philippines when Japan invaded. He and his journalist wife were both captured and imprisoned in Manila and were transferred to Shanghai before being released in a prisoner exchange. Returning to America, Mydans covered the story of the Japanese internment camps and then went back to Europe, where he recorded action in Italy and France. One of his most famous photos, however, came when he returned to the Philippines and photographed General Douglas MacArthur's landing in 1944; this was followed the next year by his pictures of the Japanese surrender aboard the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. After World War II, Mydans continued to take more war pictures, first in Korea and then in Vietnam. Over the years, his photographs also included images such famous people as political leaders Winston Churchill, Nikita Khrushchev, Indira Gandhi, and Harry S Truman, actor Clark Gable, and authors Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein. In addition to his contributions to Life, which continued to appear through much of the 1990s, Mydans's work can be seen in his books, including More than Meets the Eye (1959), The Violent Peace (1968), which was a collaboration with his wife, and Ohio: A Photographic Portrait, 1935-1941: Farm Security Administration Photographs (1980).



Chicago Tribune, August 19, 2004, section 1, p. 11.

Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2004, p. B10.

New York Times, August 18, 2004, p. A19.

Times (London, England), August 20, 2004, p. 32.

Washington Post, August 18, 2004, p. B6.