Robert W Kelly  /  AP
Carl Mydans in a 1959 photo provided by the family. Mydans died Monday.
updated 8/17/2004 9:06:09 PM ET 2004-08-18T01:06:09

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, died Monday of heart failure, his family said. He was 97.

Mydans traveled the world with his cameras, witnessing and recording landmarks of history — the gaunt faces of 1930s dust-bowl farmers, Gen. Douglas MacArthur wading ashore on his return to the Philippines in 1944, Frenchwomen having their heads shaved as punishment for “collaboration” with the Nazis, and the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship USS Missouri a year later.

Among his more memorable photos was one showing homebound rail commuters Nov. 22, 1963, reading newspapers with the headline “President Shot Dead.”

His wife, Shelley Smith Mydans, was also a journalist, and they often worked together. During World War II, they were imprisoned by the Japanese for nearly two years.

He met his wife in 1938. In 1941, they were assigned to cover the war in China and were in Manila, Philippines, when Pearl Harbor drew the United States into war with Japan. Captured and imprisoned, Mydans later said he refused a Japanese offer of freedom if he would take photos for them.

Went back to the war
Later moved to a prison in China, the couple were repatriated in a 1943 prisoner of war exchange.

Mydans returned to the war, this time in Europe, where he covered Allied invasions in Italy and France.

Carl Mydans  /  AP
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, center, with Gen. Richard Sutherland, left, and Col. Lloyd Lehrbas, second left, wades ashore on his return to the Philippine Islands in 1944 in this photograph by Carl Mydans.
Based in Tokyo, Mydans covered the postwar U.S. occupation, and the Korean War, and in subsequent years continued to roam the United States and the globe for Life.

Born May 18, 1907, Mydans grew up in Medford, Mass., and joined The Boston Globe as a reporter while still a student at Boston University.

In addition to his son, a New York Times reporter, Mydans is survived by a daughter, Misty Mydans. His wife died two years ago.

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