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.