Carl Mydans: Photographer for Life magazine

Carl Mydans, one of Life magazine’s most famous – and most world travelled – photographers, has died in the US, aged 97.

He worked for Life almost from its inception in 1936, joining the magazine just a week before the first issue appeared.

During World War Two, he covered most of the world’s battlefronts. Many of his pictures were famous, most notably the picture of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore from a landing craft in the Philippines 1945. But he also covered the gamut of Life pictures, from Hollywood celebrities to life in the American boondocks with cowboys and barmaids and sandhogs digging tunnels under New York.

As with his contemporaries, Robert Capa and Eugene Smith, Mydans’ pictures were a mainstay of Life magazine.

All were pioneers in the use of 35 mm cameras, which were just becoming popular in the thirties.

During WW2 Mydans and his wife Shelley, a reporter for Life, were taken prisoner by the Japanese in Manila.

They spent two years in prisoner of war camps.

On their release, undeterred, Mydans volunteered to cover the liberation of Italy and then France.

After that it was back to the Pacific.

Another of his famous pictures was the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship Missouri in Sept 1945, with the generals on deck in uniform, while the Japanese wore top-hats and tails.

Carl Mydans also covered hydrogen bomb tests in Bikini, the war in Korea and earthquakes in Japan.

His pictorial globetrotting took him from Hong Kong to Greenland, and from Russia to Vietnam.

His son, Seth, keeps up the family tradition of journalism, and is working as a correspondent for the NY Times in Asia.

Jeffrey Blyth

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