Information

Carl Mydans


Carl Mydans, son of a classical oboist, was born in Boston on 20th May, 1907. Mydans was invited by Roy Stryker in 1935 to join the the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration. This small group of photographers, including Esther Bubley, Marjory Collins, Mary Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Walker Evans, Russell Lee, Gordon Parks, Charlotte Brooks, John Vachon, Dorothea Lange and Ben Shahn, were employed to publicize the conditions of the rural poor in America.

In 1936 Mydans left the Farm Security Administration to join the recently established Life Magazine. In 1938 he married the journalist Shelley Mydans and the following year they were sent to Europe to cover the Second World War. At first they went to England before covering the war in Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Italy, China, and Hong Kong. During this period they travelled over 45,000 miles in pursuit of picture stories.

Mydans and his wife were in the Philippines when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Trapped in Manila they were captured by the Japanese Army and were interned with other Americans and remained in captivity until December 1943.

In 1944 Mydans accompanied Allied forces to Italy where he covered the campaign in Monte Cassino and the D-Day landings in France. The following year he took the famous photograph of General Douglas MacArthur as he returned to the Philippines. He also covered the finish of the Pacific War, including photographing Japan's signing the unconditional surrender to the the Allies on 2nd September, 1945.

After the war Mydans worked for Time Magazine in Japan and covered the 1948 earthquake in Fukui which resulted in 1,600 deaths. He later covered the Korean War before moving to England with his wife Shelley Mydans.

Mydans also covered the assassination of John F. Kennedy. One critic was later to say: "In 1963, he was the last to arrive at Life's New York office after President Kennedy's assassination, but his image of horrified American commuters reading the headlines on a train became famous." He also covered assignments for Life that took him to Greenland, Samoa, Yugoslavia and Vietnam.

Carl Mydans died on 16th August, 2004.

By the mid-1930s, Mydans had taken to carrying a miniature camera on his assignments, and in 1935 he, Walker Evans, Ben Shahn and Dorothea Lange were hired by the Farm Security Administration to take pictures of impoverished farm workers in order to ignite public support for the New Deal. On the strength of these pictures he became the fifth photographer hired to work on Life, which had been set up in 1936.

His first assignment was a photographic essay on life in Freer, Texas, and his images of the gaunt and weather-beaten faces of farm workers became some of the best-known representations of the effects of the Great Depression on rural America.

In 1937, at a Christmas party for Life employees, Mydans met Shelley Smith, a journalist, whom he married the following year. When war broke out Mydans was sent to the Finnish-Russian front, and later, as the Germans advanced towards Paris, he covered the refugees fleeing from the city.

In 1941 Mydans and his wife were assigned (as a photographer-writer team) to cover the war in China. They were in Manila, capital of the Philippines, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor drew America into the war. On January 2 1942 they were captured and imprisoned.

After 22 months in prison, first in Manila and later in Shanghai, in 1943 Mydans and his wife were repatriated as part of a prisoner-of-war exchange. Carl Mydans immediately returned to the war, this time in Europe where he covered the Allied invasions of Italy and France. One of his most memorable photographs of this period was the disturbing image of townspeople in Marseilles about to shave the head of a Frenchwoman accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

At the end of the war he returned to China to photograph the liberation of Shanghai's notorious Lung Hwa prison. He also recorded the moment when General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on his return to the Philippines in January 1945.

Mydans took particular pride in his pictures (captured from the top of a gun turret) of the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. He later recalled that he had felt some compassion for Shigemitsu Mamoru, the Japanese foreign minister, as he watched him "limp forward, his wooden leg tapping out his progress in the silence . He leaned on his cane, took off his top hat, and stripped off his gloves, and for an instant he seemed confused".

His simple image of commuters travelling home on November 22 1963, all reading newspapers with the headline "President Shot Dead", communicated the shock felt throughout America on the day after Kennedy's assassination.

One of the best known photographs from the second world war shows the supreme allied commander in the south-west Pacific, Douglas MacArthur, wading ashore in the Philippines in 1945 to fulfil his promise made three years earlier that "I will return." It was taken by cameraman Carl Mydans, who has died aged 97.

For the rest of his life, Mydans had to fight suspicions that the picture was staged. He would point out that MacArthur was usually unco-operative with photographers and insist that the general only did the walk once. But even if MacArthur did not pose, in one respect he performed with a canny knowledge of the pictorial potential.

United States forces returned to the islands in October 1944, having been driven out by the Japanese months after the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941. But MacArthur did not land at the main island of Luzon until January 1945, and Mydans was the only photographer allowed to be present.

In preparation for the great man's arrival, army engineers had put out pontoons to the shore so he would not get his feet wet - and it was along those that Mydans ran to the beach in order to take his picture. But then he saw MacArthur's landing craft turn away parallel to the shore. Mydans ran along the sand until the craft headed inwards, and as he had expected: "I was standing in my dry shoes waiting." His photograph showed MacArthur sloshing towards the camera in his open-necked uniform and signature dark glasses, accompanied by staff officers and helmeted troops.

Mydans later photographed MacArthur at the Japanese surrender ceremony aboard the USS Missouri. "No one I have ever known in public life had a better understanding of the drama and power of a picture," Mydans later acknowledged.

He had plenty of comparisons to make. In his long career he took portraits of President Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, authors Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner and Thomas Mann, poet Ezra Pound, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Indian premier Indira Gandhi, and actor Clark Gable.

Mydans also covered the wars in Korea and Vietnam, the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939, and the Japanese in China. He was often asked why he photographed war so much. "War is not my delight," he would reply. "War was the event of my years.


WAR, PEACE AND CARL MYDANS

''When people see the picture of General MacArthur wading to the beach, they wonder how many times did he do that,'' said Carl Mydans, the photographer who snapped the historic picture of MacArthur's return to the Philippines more than 40 years ago. The occasion was Mr. Mydans's exhibition of his photographs from more than three decades entitled 'ɺ Photojournalist's Journey Through War and Peace,'' which begins tomorrow and runs through March 8 at the International Center of Photography's midtown gallery, at 77 West 45th Street. MacArthur ɽid Not Pose'

'ɻut the general did not pose for pictures,'' Mr. Mydans said. ''On that occasion, I was the only still photographer in the landing craft with General MacArthur. As we went to the beach, I saw that the Seabees had gotten there ahead of us and had put out a steel pontoon ahead of the general's arrival.

''I jumped out ahead onto the pontoon to get a shot of the general, and suddenly the landing craft backed up and moved down the beach several hundred yards,'' he said. ''General MacArthur did not want to land and step out on the pontoon.

''I never knew anybody who appreciated the value of a picture more than MacArthur.''

The image of General MacArthur, wearing his notable dark sunglasses and stiff field hat, boldly leading his troops and wading through a relatively tranquil surf to the beach front at Lingayen Gulf in Luzon, the Philippines, on Jan. 9, 1945, is one of 100 photographs in the exhibition. 'I Am a Storyteller'

''I am, and have always been, a storyteller,'' said Mr. Mydans, for 50 years a celebrated photojournalist and correspondent for Life and Time magazines whose work is often compared with that of other photographers, including Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks and Alfred Eisenstaedt. Mr. Mydans said his motive was to capture human behavior and record history: ''I'm interested in how people react.''

The photographs in the exhibition were all shot with a 35-millimeter camera with available light at a time when many press photographers were still shooting pictures with flash, and old and bulky 4-by-5 box cameras.

In a 1936 photograph with a caption, ''Roustabouts in the oil boom town of Freer, Tex., take time off from their jobs,'' four strapping men wearing oil-stained trousers and fedoras spotted with grease and sweat pose around tires that almost dwarf them. The tough men are grinning, and one of them with dimples betrays his innocence and shyness in a simple, telling pose of amusement. The shot is one of several of men at work - on oil rigs, in tunnels and rice paddies - that depict common occurrences in unusually sensitive ways. A Reminder of War

The grimace of a Chinese woman who has returned to her village to find it utterly destroyed during the Chinese civil war in 1945 is another image in the exhibition that, while it captures the pain of the moment, is a lingering reminder of the horror and futility of war. All around her there is rubble where once were homes. Next to her, a blackened young sapling stripped of leaves stands tall, stiff and lifeless with broken branches. Even the sky is bleak.

''The picture of the woman is among my favorites,'' Mr. Mydans said. ''To this day I still remember her pain so vividly. The one expression that I got from the interpreter over and over is that the woman said, ɺll is lost, All is lost.' ''

'𧺬h photograph carries a story, but to the photographer, there is a special story behind each photograph that is many times never told,'' he said.


Shore Party: The Truth Behind the Famous MacArthur Photo

Douglas MacArthur’s anger at being forced to wade ashore at Leyte in October 1944 (above) faded when he saw the powerful photo that resulted.

I conic photos often have their own stories—some real, some myth.

For more than 76 years, questions have swirled around the famous photos of General Douglas MacArthur’s beach landings—first on Leyte, then on Luzon—as American troops returned to liberate the Philippines. Stories persist that MacArthur, no stranger to controversy or drama, staged the photos by coming ashore several times until the cameraman got the perfect shot, or that the photos were posed days after the actual landings. Those who were present say neither of these oft-repeated stories is true. But what really happened is even stranger than these misguided rumors.

MacArthur’s return was the high point of his war. In July 1941 he had been named commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East, including all American and Filipino troops in the Philippines. In March 1942, with Japanese forces tightening their grip around the Philippines, MacArthur was ordered out of the islands for Australia. After reaching his destination, he vowed to liberate the Philippines, famously proclaiming, “I shall return.”

By April 1942, Japanese units advancing across the Philippines forced beleaguered Allied troops there to surrender. From then on, the Philippines “constituted the main object of my planning,” MacArthur said. By late 1944 he was poised to fulfill his promise—until an interservice battle threatened to derail his plans.

The U.S. Navy wanted American forces to bypass the Philippines and invade Formosa (now Taiwan) instead. MacArthur objected strenuously, both on strategic grounds and upon his belief that the United States had a moral duty to the people of the Philippines. The dispute went all the way up to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ultimately sided with MacArthur.

Finally, on October 20, 1944, MacArthur made his long-anticipated return. At 10 a.m., his troops stormed ashore on Leyte, an island in the central Philippines. The heaviest fighting took place on Red Beach, but by early afternoon, MacArthur’s men had secured the area. Secured, however, did not mean safe. Japanese snipers remained active while small-arms and mortar fire continued throughout the day. Hundreds of small landing craft clogged the beaches, but the water was too shallow for larger landing craft to reach dry land.

Aboard the USS Nashville two miles offshore, a restless MacArthur could not wait to put his feet back on Philippine soil. At 1 p.m., he and his staff left the cruiser to take the two-mile landing craft ride to Red Beach. MacArthur intended to step out onto dry land, but soon realized their vessel was too large to advance through the shallow depths near the coastline. An aide radioed the navy beachmaster and asked that a smaller craft be sent to bring them in. The beachmaster, whose word was law on the invasion beach, was too busy with the chaos of the overall invasion to be bothered with a general, no matter how many stars he wore. “Walk in—the water’s fine,” he growled.

The bow of the landing craft dropped and MacArthur and his entourage waded 50 yards through knee-deep water to reach land.

Major Gaetano Faillace, an army photographer assigned to MacArthur, took photos of the general wading ashore. The result was an image of a scowling MacArthur, jaw set firmly, with a steel-eyed look as he approached the beach. But what may have appeared as determination was, in reality, anger. MacArthur was fuming. As he sloshed through the water, he stared daggers at the impudent beachmaster, who had treated the general as he probably had not been treated since his days as a plebe at West Point. However, when MacArthur saw the photo, his anger quickly dissipated. A master at public relations, he knew a good photo when he saw one.

Still, rumors persisted that MacArthur had staged the Leyte photo. CBS radio correspondent William J. Dunn, who was on Red Beach that day, hotly disputed these rumors, calling them “one of the most ludicrous misconceptions to come out of the war.” The photo was “a one-time shot” taken within hours of the initial landing, Dunn said, not something repeated sometime later for the perfect picture. MacArthur biographer D. Clayton James agreed, noting that MacArthur’s “plans for the drama at Red Beach certainly did not include stepping off in knee-deep water.”

The next landing, however, was a different story.

Hoping to replicate the effective walk ashore at Leyte, MacArthur arranged for his landing craft to stop offshore at Luzon, which photographer Carl Mydans captured in this famous image. (Carl Mydans/ The Life Picture Collection/Getty Images)

On January 9, 1945, American troops arrived at Luzon, the main island in the Philippines, catching the Japanese by surprise. Opposition was light. MacArthur watched the landings from the cruiser USS Boise and at 2 p.m.—about four hours after the initial landings—he headed for shore.

Navy Seabees had quickly built a small pier with pontoons so that MacArthur and his staff could exit their vessel without getting wet. On seeing this, MacArthur ordered his boat to swerve away from the pier so that he could wade ashore through knee-deep water as he had done at Leyte. He knew that Life magazine photographer Carl Mydans was on the beach. As he strode toward shore, MacArthur struck the same pose and steadfast facial expression as at Leyte. Mydans snapped the famous photo that soon appeared on the front pages of newspapers across the United States and became what Time magazine called “an icon of its era.” No one, Mydans said later, appreciated the value of a picture more than MacArthur.

There is little doubt that MacArthur chose to avoid the pier—and dry feet—for dramatic effect. “Having spent a lot of time with MacArthur,” Mydans said, “it flashed on me what was happening. He was avoiding the pontoons.” Biographer D. Clayton James wrote that the Luzon landing “seems to have been a deliberate act of showmanship. With the worldwide attention that his Leyte walk through the water received, apparently the Barrymore side of MacArthur’s personality could not resist another big splash of publicity and surf.”

MacArthur, on the other hand, blamed fate. “As was getting to be a habit with me,” he wrote, perhaps with tongue in cheek, “I picked a boat that took too much draft to reach the beach, and I had to wade in.” (continued after photos below)

Editors from Life used Maydan’s other photos to present different view of the famous, widely published Luzon photo, perhaps as a ploy to make readers believe they were seeing something different after being scooped. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

(Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Other circumstances conspired to make it appear that MacArthur had waded in at Luzon more than once. Although Mydans worked for Life, on that day he was the pool photographer, which gave any news organization free license to use the image. On January 20, 1945, a tightly cropped version of the photo, making MacArthur the focal point, appeared in newspapers throughout the United States. When Life ran the photo a month later, editors used the uncropped version, which included other vessels and figures on the periphery and even another photographer in the foreground. Only a sharp-eyed viewer would realize that it was the photo they had already seen in newspapers weeks earlier, giving rise to the impression of repeat photo sessions. Life had also surrounded the iconic photo with other images Mydans had snapped moments before and after that one, including an unflattering shot of MacArthur being helped down the ramp of the landing craft. All of this may have been a ploy by the magazine—having been scooped by its own photographer—to make readers think they were seeing something new and different.

In the end, controversies about MacArthur’s landings will likely continue. “These are stories that once created will keep being told,” Mydans said, “and each new generation will find…some reason for telling it. Usually it’s with delight.” ✯

This story was originally published in the January/February 2017 issue of World War II magazine. Subscribe here.


Oral history interview with Carl Mydans, 1964 Apr. 29

Format: Originally recorded on 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 2 digital wav files. Duration is 1 hr., 28 min.

Summary: An interview of Carl Mydans conducted 1964 Apr. 29, by Richard Doud, for the Archives of American Art.
Mydans speaks of his background in photography and photojournalism joining the Farm Security Administration staff Roy Stryker as a catalyst for creativity some of his outstanding experiences with the FSA styles of different photographers the significance of the FSA in American history, and how it changed Americans' awareness of other Americans subjects of his photographs and their treatment of him the influence of his fellow FSA photographers technological changes in photography.

Biographical/Historical Note

Carl Mydans (1907-2004) was a photographer, associated with the Farm Security Administration.

Provenance

This interview conducted as part of the Archives of American Art's New Deal and the Arts project, which includes over 400 interviews of artists, administrators, historians, and others involved with the federal government's art programs and the activities of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Language Note

Funding

Funding for the digital preservation of this interview was provided by a grant from the Save America's Treasures Program of the National Park Service.

How to Use This Collection

Transcript: 35mm microfilm reel 3697 available at Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.

Transcript: Patrons must use microfilm copy.

Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Carl Mydans, 1964 Apr. 29. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


Eastern States Coliseum, West Springfield, Mass (2)

Another view of the interior of the Eastern States Coliseum, in September, 1936. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, FSA/OWI Collection.


Like the photo in the previous post, the first photo here was taken by photojournalist Carl Mydans during his time with the Farm Security Administration. During the Great Depression, the agency employed a number of prominent photographers who traveled around the country, documenting conditions of rural areas across the country. Many of these photos showed the harsh conditions that farmers endured, including Dorothea Lange’s famous Migrant Mother photo, and have become iconic representations of the Great Depression.

During his travels, Carl Mydans, who was a Massachusetts native, took a series of photographs at the 1936 Eastern States Exposition, including some inside the Coliseum. Built in 1916 when the annual exposition began, the arena was used for everything from professional hockey to equestrian shows, and the first photo shows a cattle judging event that was happening when Mydans visited.

Today, although 80 years have passed, very little has changed inside the Coliseum since Mydans photographed it. The present-day photo was taken during the 2016 exposition, when both the agricultural fair and the building itself turned a century old. There were no events happening at the time that the photo was taken, but the Coliseum is still regularly used at the Big E every fall, as well as other times throughout the year.


Nazi Collaborators Executed In France (PHOTOS): Chilling Images From LIFE.com

Just days after Paris was famously liberated from German control in 1944, LIFE photographer Carl Mydans and correspondent John Osborne were eyewitnesses to a grisly affair in the foothills of the French Alps.

On September 2, a group of Resistance fighters gathered near the town of Grenoble to execute a half-dozen Nazi collaborators who had worked for the Milice -- the despised Vichy police. The photos and commentary that ran were simultaneously poignant and terrifying.

Here is a small sample of some of Mydan's rare, chilling photographs that document the horrific event. Be sure to check out the amazing full gallery on LIFE.com.

Photos and captions courtesy of LIFE.com

"They looked so young, wretched, unshaven, yet at the same time evil in their dirt and misery," Osborne recalled of the six doomed men.

"The first five bodies, looking north from where I stood, seemed to fall slowly, slowly, slowly in dreadful unison," Osborne wrote.

Minutes after the men stepped out of the van that transported them from the jail, they are laid in their coffins.


Nina Leen

Portrait of photographer Nina Leen.

Photographer Nina Leen was born in Russia, but spent time in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. She studied painting in Berlin before immigrating to the United States in 1939. Her first series published in LIFE was of tortoises at the Bronx Zoo, which she shot with her Rolleiflex camera. She never became a staff photographer with the magazine, but contributed regularly from 1940 until the magazine closed in 1972. Throughout her time shooting for LIFE, she contributed over 50 cover photos and countless reports from all over the world.

Checkered fashion at Roosevelt Raceways in March, 1958. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Models sunbathing in the latest beach fashions. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Women wearing beach hats by Nina Leen. The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images


REMEMBERING CARL MYDANS

On the occasion the exhibition "Carl Mydans: The Early Years", we look back and share this article
published at the time of Carl's death in 2004.


Modern photojournalism has had a relatively short life. If you start with the premise that the profession that came with the big picture magazines really is only about eight decades old, it is not surprising that the giants who emerged during this period are beginning to die.

In the past month, two of the greatest have left us. First, it was Henri Cartier-Bresson, who more than any photographer defined "the decisive moment," then in August, Carl Mydans, who was without doubt one of the greatest of the original Life photographers.

It was interesting that both photographers received huge obits on the pages of The New York Times. The sheer scope of these obituaries was generally reserved for great writers, poets, designers and heads of state.

Carl Mydans was often overlooked when compared with some of his more colorful colleagues, such as Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White and Gordon Parks. Some critics called his work ordinary. But for those who knew better, Carl was without doubt the best photojournalist of them all.

What made his work so special was that Carl was first and always a journalist. He viewed his job as being a witness to history. To Carl, the written word was as important as the photography. In a closet in his Larchmont N.Y., home, which he shared with his wife Shelley until she died several years ago, were thousands of reporter's notebooks. He made a lifetime habit of sitting down at the end of every day and meticulously recording what he saw and heard. These notebooks are a huge legacy to historians.

He was the consummate journalist. Time-Life recognized this when they made him bureau chief in Tokyo following World War II. He is the only photographer in that company's history to be accorded this recognition.

A decade ago, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, turned over its walls to a major retrospective of Carl's work. When the full extent of his remarkable career could be seen in one place, the result was breathtaking.

Like his colleague and friend, Alfred Eisenstaedt, into his '90s, Carl remained engaged in the world. He still had the curiosity of a child. Even though he could barely hear, he made the trek to his office on the 28th floor of the Time-Life building until the mid-'90s.

In 1945, General George McArthur sent a plane to pick up Carl, who was then busy covering the defeat of Nazi Germany, to return him to the Pacific theatre so that Carl could accompany him on his return to the Philippines. The general knew that Carl had remained behind with the defenders of Corregidor when they were overrun by the Japanese, and the Japanese had imprisoned him and his wife for over two years.

This resulted in one of Carl's most memorable photos, of McArthur wading ashore.

Over four decades later, Time magazine sent Carl back to the Philippines to cover the elections that resulted in Corazon Aquino defeating President Ferdinand Marcos.

Carl's son, Seth Mydans, remembers:

What I recall is that my father wangled his way onto Ferdinand Marcos's small plane up to Ilocos Norte on voting day. Everyone else had had to make the long drive and had taken their places around the ballot box at dawn, everyone with their elbows firmly in their neighbors' ribs. My father (he may have been secretly grinning) walked in with the Marcos crowd and simply took his place in front of everybody, causing the usual cries of complaint. But I'm told everyone was very polite to the old war-horse. That image is coupled in my mind with a wonderful photo of Carl, in his funny sunhat, clambering up onto a wooden scaffold in the middle of Luneta Park during a Corazon Aquino rally, with all the other photographers reaching out to hold a hand, an arm, an elbow, a foot and help him up.

As for the Marcoses, we all know about their vivid imaginations. When I first met Imelda at a press conference in Malacanang in 1981, she announced in front of everybody, "Yes, my husband rescued your father from prison camp." I then had my first audience with Marcos, who promptly told me, "Yes, your father is the only photographer who ever got a picture of me during the war wearing my helmet." (These, of course, are the people who said they grew wealthy by "investing wisely," among other things.)

I'd like to mention also that Shelley hadn't lost her touch either. She volunteered to visit a polling place for The New York Times and produced one of the most vivid accounts of the day when a bunch of goons rushed the place and hammered with their pistol butts to get the nuns and schoolteachers to loosen their grips on the ballot boxes.

One other quite extraordinary moment: During the January-February 1986 campaign, my competition may have wondered how I was getting so much access to Marcos. More than once, my father asked me to "carry his camera bags" when he was invited in to shoot a portrait. On one of these occasions he autographed a copy of his new book, "Carl Mydans, Photojournalist," just as he did for other major figures (major like Doy Laurel): "With respect, at this historic moment." Two weeks after Edsa , I flew to Hawaii to interview Marcos in exile. He had not yet moved to Makiki Heights but was in a sad, barren seaside villa. The jewels and pesos and other goodies he had grabbed as he fled were already in some vault somewhere. But my father's book, autographed "at this historic moment," was out on a coffee table for me to see. One could say it was one of his valuable treasures, but I think that even as he fled his palace, Marcos still thought Time magazine and The New York Times could help him get back there again. After all, the cover photograph shows MacArthur's return.

Robin Moyer, who was then the Time contract photographer in Southeast Asia, remembers:

Carl and Shelley arrived in Manila in early January, checked into the Manila Hotel and immediately set about work. His special assignment was to cover the Marcos campaign.

Despite the fact he was 79 years old at the time, his boundless energy and enthusiasm inspired our shooters like James Nachtwey, Peter Charlesworth and Susan Meiselas. The Filipino photographers adopted

Carl as one of their own, reserving the best vantage places for him in the photo melees.

Even Imelda Marcos got into the act, proclaiming Carl an old-time friend of the family. "We've known Carl for years. He is world-famous and much taller than his son."

Carl's response was simple. "I met Imelda for the first time last week and Seth is much taller than I am."

Carl's tireless work in the sweltering heat of Manila produced some outstanding images, including one of the several covers during the campaign and a singularly stunning image that showed not only his skill as a photographer, but his sense of history.

At the final rally of the Marcos campaign, having worked his way through a crowd estimated at over a million people, past several layers of photographers and around the security teams surrounding Marcos and his wife, Carl mounted the stage and made what may be the best image of our months of coverage. Reminiscent of the famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" photo, Carl snapped a picture of Marcos smugly holding up a banner headline proclaiming "MARCOS WINS!"

Photographer Peter Charlesworth picked up the story:

As the press jostled for positions at a press conference to be given by President Marcos, I believe it was Robin Moyer who somehow instilled some discipline into the rabble of cameramen and photographers, setting them into tiered, orderly ranks. Carl was waiting, kneeling quietly in the front row.

Marcos arrived out of a side door and sat in front of a desk, whereupon Carl leapt up, leaned over the desk and started to make close-up portraits of the ailing dictator. Had this been anyone else, the verbal abuse from the massed press, whose views had been blocked, would have been deafening. A camera to the back of the head would have been more likely.

Nothing. There was a stunned silence as Marcos's security guards wondered what to do. Such was the awe in which Carl was held by the Filipino press corps - indeed, by all those present - that nobody moved. After a while, there were a few murmurs from those in the front row, "Er, excuse me, Mr. Mydans, . " as Carl continued to snap away, "er, Mr. Mydans "

At which point Carl turned around and cast a glance back at the gob-smacked photographers. With a mischievous grin he muttered, "Oh, I am so sorry," as if he had completely forgotten that anyone else was there, then shuffled back to his position in the front row.

In his last years, his friends continually visited Carl. These visits were a source of great joy.

We shall all miss him. We will not see his kind again.

© Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher of the Digital Journalist


Carl Mydans at Tule Lake, 1944

A couple of weeks ago I posted four Library of Congress photographs (attributed to Russell Lee) of Tule Lake internment camp .

In follow up, I encourage you to check out the 200+ images of Tule Lake by Carl Mydans on the Google/LIFE archive. Mydans took these for a LIFE Magazine feature in 1944. [More down the page]

I am especially drawn to the photographs in which Mydans’ presence cannot be ignored – a blinding flash,or fixed stare. Are some of Mydans prints are attempts to be poetic? The scenarios for other prints seem invasive. [More, scroll down]

Mydans’ success was his portraits his reportage of the interactions between internees and authorities appear to be staged. Maybe pictures were staged, or maybe authorities just fidgeted in front of the camera?


For more about Japanese-American Internment during WWII, refer to the Densho archive of video-recorded oral testimony paired with images and documents of the time. It is the most thorough archive I know of.

Found via International Center for Photography, FANS IN A FLASHBULB blog:


CARL MYDANS / 1907-2004 / Life photographer captured indelible images of war

1 of 3 (NYT6) UNDATED -- Aug. 17, 2004 -- OBIT-MYDANS-1-BW -- Carl Mydans, who photographed 20th century events from the Great Depression to wars and politics and was a charter member of the Life magazine staff that pioneered magazine photojournalism, has died. He was 97. Mydans in a 1950 portrait. (The New York Times) XNYZ - 1950 FILE PHOTO NYT Show More Show Less

2 of 3 Gen. Douglas MacArthur, center, with Gen. Richard Sutherland, left, & Col. Lloyd Lehrbas, second left, wades ashore on his return to the Philippine Islands in 1944 in this photograph by Carl Mydans. Mydans, who photographed 20th century events from the Great Depression to wars and politics and was a charter member of the Life magazine staff that pioneered magazine photojournalism, died, Monday, Aug. 16, 2004, in Larchmont, N.Y. He was 97. (AP Photo/Carl Mydans, LIFE Magazine) ONE TIME USE ONLY WITH CARL MYDEN OBITUARY CARL MYDANS Show More Show Less

2004-08-18 04:00:00 PDT New York -- Carl Mydans, a photographer for Life whose career spanned all 36 years of the magazine's incarnation as a weekly, and whose most memorable pictures were taken under combat conditions during World War II, died Monday at his home in Larchmont, N.Y., his family said. He was 97.

Mydans began his career as a photographer during the Depression working for the Resettlement Administration, a federal agency. Armed with a shooting script from Roy Stryker, the project's leader, Mydans traveled in the South, photographing cotton farms and laborers, and in New England, documenting small- town life.

After 16 months with the government, he was hired by Life, then a fledgling picture magazine being created by Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Fortune. Mydans became the fifth photographer on the staff, taking his place alongside Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Thomas McAvoy and Peter Stackpole.

Over four decades, Mydans worked on the full gamut of typical Life stories, from Hollywood celebrities to Texas cattle roundups, but his most important assignment, starting with the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939, was as a war photographer. Resourceful, determined and unruffled, Mydans managed to send back pictures of combat that even now define how we remember World War II, Korea and other conflicts. As did Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith and other photojournalists of the era, he adopted the perspective of an infantryman as the best way of showing what war felt like.

Mydans' knack for getting himself close to the action also had disadvantages. In January 1942, he and his wife, Shelley, then a Life researcher-reporter, were taken prisoner by invading Japanese forces in Manila they spent almost two years in captivity there and in Shanghai before being released in a prisoner exchange. After a brief respite in New York, Mydans was sent by Life's editors to cover the Allied liberation of Italy and France and subsequently back to the Pacific theater.

Two of his most widely reproduced war pictures took advantage of his acquaintance with Gen. Douglas MacArthur, as well as other influential Pacific military leaders. One shows MacArthur wading ashore on Luzon in January 1945, an image illustrating the fulfillment of his 1942 pledge to return to the Philippines, which he had accomplished in October 1944, with the American landings at Leyte. The other picture, taken on board the battleship Missouri on Sept. 2, 1945, shows MacArthur and other officers watching as the Japanese delegation signs the official document of surrender.

Carl Mydans was born May 20, 1907, in Boston, the son of a professional musician and the grandson of a bookbinder who had immigrated from Russia. He attended public schools in Medford and graduated from Boston University in 1930 with a degree in journalism. While a student, he learned to take and process photographs, and after joining the staff of American Banker as a reporter in 1931, he acquired his own camera, a 35mm Contax.


Watch the video: Москва 1959 года глазами американца Carl Mydans (December 2021).