Mydans, Carl

Alternative names
Birth 1907-05-20
Death 2004-08-16

Biographical notes:

Carl Mydans was an American photographer who spent most of his career with Life magazine. Some of his most memorable photographs were taken during World War II.

Born on May 20, 1907, Mydans studied journalism and photography in Boston in 1930 and spent some time as a writer in New York. He began working for the Farm Security Administration in 1935, where he documented rural and farm life, including migrant farm families, in the South and in New England. In 1936, he was hired as one of the first staff photographers for Life magazine. His early assignments included documenting cattle ranchers in Freer, Texas, and tunnel sand hogs in New York City. He married his wife, Shelley Smith, in 1938, and they became a writer-photographer team for Life . When World War II began, the Mydanses traveled throughout Europe and Asia. They were captured by the Japanese after the fall of the Philippines in 1941, and spent almost two years as prisoners-of-war in Manila and Shanghai. Following their release, Carl Mydans went back to the front in Europe and covered the liberation of Italy and France. His acquaintence with General Douglas MacArthur led to his covering MacArthur's return to the Philippines in 1944 and the eventual surrender of Japan in 1945.

In 1947, the Mydanses became Time-Life's bureau chiefs in Tokyo, and they remained in the Pacific area for the next several years. Carl Mydans was present during a 1948 earthquake in Fukui, Japan, and also covered the Korean War in 1950 and 1951. He traveled the world through the 1960s and 1970s, and worked for Life until it ceased weekly publication in 1972. He continued to work as a photographer for Time and other publications until his eighties. He died on August 16, 2004.

From the guide to the Carl Mydans photographs, 1935-1968, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)


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