Carl Mydans: Photojournalist

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A major exhibition celebrating the career of the legendary LIFE magazine photographer, who died in August, 2004 at age 97.

Monroe Gallery of Photography, 112 Don Gaspar, is pleased to announce ”Carl Mydans: Photojournalist”, a major exhibition celebrating the career of the legendary photographer, who died in August, 2004 at age 97. The exhibition opens with a public reception on April 8, from 5 – 7 PM. The exhibition will continue through June 26.

Sidney and Michelle Monroe, owners of Monroe Gallery of Photography, said at the time of Mydans’ death: “We were privileged to have known Carl personally for the past 20 years, and his humanistic photography and kind heart informed us in both our personal and professional lives.”

Born in Massachusetts, near Boston, in 1907, Mydans’ keen sensitivity and honesty compelled him toward a lifetime of social and historical documentary photography. After working for the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, he joined the photographic staff of the Farm Security Administration in 1936. The FSA, as it was familiarly known, was a government agency established during the Great Depression by Franklin Roosevelt to provide assistance to the poor and homeless. Roy Stryker, who Mydans described as one of the most important influences in his life, headed the FSA. Stryker hired Mydans, along with several other photographers who were also later to become legendary, such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Arthur Rothstein, to document the conditions of people and their surroundings most affected by the Depression.

After 16 months with the fsa, Mydans joined LIFE magazine as a staff photographer in 1936, just after the inaugural issue. Over four decades, Mydans carried out the full range of classic 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 and ever determined, Mr. Mydans managed to send back pictures of combat that even now define how we remember World War II, Korea and other conflicts. He photographed major news and feature stories in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Mydans reported on the Russo-Finnish winter war, Italy under Mussolini, and the fall of France. When war erupted in Europe, Mydans and his wife, LIFE researcher Shelley Smith, became the magazine’s first husband and wife team to be sent overseas. Constantly traveling, Mydans’ assignments took him to Britain, Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, China, Malaya, and the Philippines, where he and his wife were captured by the Japanese. Released after being held prisoner of war for two years, Mydans was sent back into war in 1944, eventually covering the stoic figure of General MacArthur landing at Luzon. This famous image eloquently captures the pride and determination of the great commander and stands in dramatic contrast to the sense of shame and resignation expressed in the photographs he made of the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri from the same year.

Not all of Mydans’ most memorable photographs are from the field of battle. Equally a master of portraiture and landscape photography, Mydans’ compelling photographs provide a picture odyssey of all kinds of events from around the world. Mydans received many important awards and citations, including the annual Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement from the International Center of Photography and the 1991 Guest of Honor award at the prestigious International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France. In January, 2001, Vanity Fair named Mydans “one of photography’s most enduring masters”. The New York Times, in its obituary for Mydans, hailed him as a photographer “who told his stories with a single picture”.

Included in the exhibition are rare vintage prints from the archives of LIFE magazine - the actual prints used for LIFE magazine stories, with important archive information inscribed and stamped on the back of each photograph

“As a storyteller in pictures, the photojournalist is looking not only for action but for substance. He is a historian and a sociologist. He has created humanity’s first international language, a common imagery for all mankind. And in his pictures, people see themselves with a clarity they never knew before.”--Carl Mydans

Monroe Gallery of Photography was founded by Sidney S. Monroe and Michelle A. Monroe. Building on more than four decades of collective experience, the gallery specializes in classic black & white photography with an emphasis on humanist and photojournalist imagery.

Gallery hours are 10 to 6 Monday through Saturday, 10 to 5 Sunday. Admission is free. For further information, please call: 505.992.0800; Interviews and media kit with images available upon request.


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