Shelley Mydans

Shelley Mydans


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Shelley Mydans, the daughter of a university professor, was born in Stanford, United States, in 1915. After college she moved to New York where she found work with as a journalist with the Literary Digest.

In 1936 she joined the staff of Life Magazine where she met the photographer Carl Mydans. In 1938 the couple married 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.

Shelley and her husband 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. Shelley wrote a novel, Open City, about her experiences in a Japanese prison camp.

When the US Army regained the Philippines in 1945 Carl Mydans flew to Manila. However, General Douglas MacArthur refused to allow women correspondents to cover the war and she had to go to Guam. She later recalled: "I was accredited to the navy, but I was not - because I was a woman - allowed to cover action on naval ships or planes and my articles had to be confined to such things as the navy flight nurses and marine base camps."

After the war Shelley worked for ABC network and wrote scripts for the March of Time radio series but resigned when her first child was born.

Shelley Mydans, who had two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, died in Sacramento, California, on the 7th March, 2002.

My work as a war correspondent in world War II was primarily as a writer/researcher for life which meant that much of the time I was working with photographers, making arrangements for their pictures, and writing the background and captions for their stories which were all excerpted and rewritten in New York. It was not a very glamorous job, though I did write signed pieces for Life once in a while and send dispatches to Time when there was no Time correspondent in the field."


Carl Mydans

Carl Mydans (born 1907) was an American photojournalist. He worked briefly for the Farm Security Administration during the 1930s documenting rural American life. In 1936 he joined the newly formed LIFE magazine where he became well known for his photographic coverage of World War II. He continued as a war photographer through the early 1970s.

Carl Mydans was born in Boston on May 20, 1907. The family moved to Medford, Massachusetts, on the Mystic River where Carl went to high school and worked in the local boatyards after school and on weekends. He later became interested in journalism and worked as a free-lance reporter for several local newspapers. In 1930 he graduated from the Boston University School of Journalism.

Mydans then moved to New York and, while working as a reporter for the "American Banker," began to study photography at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. In July 1935 his skill with the new 35mm "miniature" camera landed him a job with the Department of the Interior's Resettlement Administration, which soon merged into the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Mydans joined Walker Evans and Arthur Rothstein as the core of the remarkable team of photographers assembled by Roy Stryker to document rural America.

While travelling through the southern states photographing everything that had to do with cotton, Mydans developed the shooting style he would use throughout his career. He concentrated on people, and he photographed them in a respectful and straightforward manner. As he had been taught to do as a reporter, he kept careful notes on every shot.

When Mydans joined the staff of Life in 1936 he joined a group of photojournalists who were changing the way press photography was done. Photojournalists had traditionally used 4x5 Speed Graphic cameras with flashguns and reflector pans, and their pictures of people tended to look much the same: overlit foregrounds fell off to dark backdrops that had no detail. But Mydans and his colleagues at Life relied on 35mm cameras that allowed them to work with available light, capturing a new kind of excitement and activity in their photographs. Their success with the small camera revolutionized the practice of photojournalism.

In 1938 Mydans went overseas with his wife, Life reporter Shelley Mydans, and began his long career as a war photographer. During the next 30 years he covered conflicts in Europe, the Far East, and Southeast Asia. In World War II he was a prisoner of the Japanese for 21 months. Always, he focussed his camera on the small human drama that revealed the larger story. He retired from Life in 1972 but continued to work for Time and other magazines.

Carl Mydan's work has been displayed in various galleries throughout the United States. The New York TimesMagazine featured his work, along with Alfred Eisenstaedt's and Joe Rosenthal's in May of 1995.

Mydans called himself a "story-teller with pictures" and always maintained that he did not photograph war because he liked it, but because he thought it was important to make an historic record of his times. "Long after I am gone," he said, "I want people to be able to see and especially feel what I have seen and felt."


The Open City (1945) Thomas: A Novel of the Life, Passion, and Miracles of Becket (1965) (with Carl Mydans) The Violent Peace: A Report on Wars in the Postwar World (1968) The Vermilion Bridge (1980).

Born Shelley Smith in Palo Alto, California, in 1915, Shelley Mydans was the daughter of journalism professor Everett W. Smith. Her pursuit of journalism as a career took Mydans first to New York, where she worked as a writer-researcher for the nascent Life magazine. Carl Mydans, a photojournalist also working for Life, walked into her office one day in 1937 he "sat down in a wastebasket and started talking to Margaret Bassett , whose desk was two over from mine," Shelley told interviewer Larry Smith. "He sat there in the wastebasket, talking to Margaret, and his voice had all kinds of excitement in it." They married in 1938. By 1939, Life made the couple a reporter-photographer team and sent them on assignment to Europe and Asia both covered Douglas MacArthur's buildup in the Philippines during World War II. In 1942, the Mydans were taken prisoner by the invading Japanese and incarcerated for 12 months in Santo Tomas in Manila and 8 months in Shanghai, an experience that informed Shelley's novel Open City, published in 1945.

Twenty years later, she published Thomas: A Novel of the Life, Passion, and Miracles of Becket, an ambitious and well-reviewed historical novel about the 12th-century English saint. Mydans collaborated with her now-famous husband on The Violent Peace: A Report on Wars in the Postwar World, drawing on their research in China, Korea and Japan. The New York Times Book Review described its contents as "some of the best war journalism of our time." In 1980, Mydans published another historical novel, TheVermilion Bridge, set in 8th-century Japan. The New York Times praised her approach for combining "the thoroughness of a historian … [with] the sensitivity of a novelist."


Shelley Mydans - History

CARL (1907 - 2004)
AND
SHELLEY (1915 - 2002)
MYDANS

Georgi and Carl seem to be really enjoying themselves, as we all did.



This evening will be remembered for a long time - especially by me, Tom Moore.

Carl and Shelley are accomplished authors in addition to Carl's photo-journalistic career with Life Magazine.

Here's Carl's bio.

Here's some background on Shelley.

Shelley Mydans, the daughter of a university professor, was born in Stanford, United States, in 1915. After college she moved to New York where she found work with as a journalist with the Literary Digest.

In 1936 she joined the staff of Life Magazine where she met the photographer Carl Mydans. In 1938 the couple married 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.

Shelley and her husband 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. Carl and Shelley were repatriated on the Gripsholm. Shelley wrote a novel, Open City, about her experiences in a Japanese prison camp.

When the US Army regained the Philippines in 1945 Carl Mydans flew to Manila. However, General Douglas MacArthur refused to allow women correspondents to cover the war and she had to go to Guam. She later recalled: "I was accredited to the navy, but I was not - because I was a woman - allowed to cover action on naval ships or planes and my articles had to be confined to such things as the navy flight nurses and marine base camps."

After the war Shelley worked for ABC network and wrote scripts for the March of Time radio series but resigned when her first child was born.

Shelley Mydans, who had two children, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild, died in Sacramento, California, on the 7th March, 2002.


Carl and Shelley Smith Mydans papers

The Carl and Shelley Smith Mydans Papers contain photographic prints, slides, negatives, correspondence, notebooks, drafts of writings, objects, and audiovisual material documenting the careers of Carl Mydans, a photojournalist, and Shelley Smith Mydans, a journalist and novelist. The material dates from 1930 to 2005 and provides insight into various periods of the Mydans’ careers, from their work for Life magazine to their book projects.

Carl Mydans’ photography is evident in the various prints, slides, and negatives found in the collection. Mydans’ extensive research files and notebooks provide a broader context for his photographs. In his notebooks Mydans recorded his research assignments, insights into his subject material, responses to interview questions, and details regarding camera equipment. The papers also include objects relating to Mydans' work as a photojournalist, such as his camera bag and awards from Kodak and TIME.

Shelley Smith Mydans’ work as a journalist and novelist can be traced in the various research files, drafts, and other material relating to her publications, which included The Open City (1945), Thomas: A Novel of The Life, Passion, and Miracles of Becket (1965), and The Vermilion Bridge (1980). As the papers illustrate, the Mydans also worked on books together, as seen in the drafts, contracts, and other material pertaining to their book The Violent Peace (1968).

To a lesser degree the papers also shed light on the Mydans’ personal and professional relationships, which included other photographers and journalists, such as Alfred Eisenstaedt ("Eisie").

The materials are open for research.

Box 166 (audiocassettes): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Gift of Carl Mydans, Shelley Mydans Griffing, and Seth Mydans, 2005, 2015.

December 2015 Acquisition: Purchased from Shelley Mydans and Seth Mydans on the Sinclair Lewis Fund, 2015.


Shelley Mydans - History

If you were to ask Carl to assess his talents honestly, he would probably be a bit shy about his photographic accomplishments. Certainly among those amazing colleagues at LIFE there were photographers who became more famous. Some, like David Douglas Duncan and Margaret Bourke-White, were swashbucklers, cutting a colorful swath wherever their assignments took them. Others, such as Alfred Eisenstadt, published major books year after year. Some were great specialists, Peter Stackpole, for instance, with his underwater photography Ralph Morse, who "owned" the space program Gjon Mili, a master of light and science and Gordon Parks, whose art transcended photography into new areas of filmmaking, music, and literature.

What Carl will never be shy about, however, is his credentials as a journalist. To Carl, journalism, the recording and communicating of history as it is made, is an almost holy mission. Words and pictures together have been his grail.

True, others may have been more famous, or more colorful, but Carl Mydans' work has left a legacy of history for future generations that few writers or great artists could match.

Dirck Halstead, March, 1998

Many special thanks to Maryann Kornelly of TIME-LIFE SYNDICATION for making Carl's photographs available for this issue.


Tag Archives: Shelley Smith Mydans

This is the first time in my years of writing #WHM posts that I am featuring a mother and daughter back to back. Yesterday’s post was about May Hurlburt Smith, an Alpha Phi. Today’s spotlight is on her daughter, Shelley &hellip Continue reading &rarr

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One of my all time favorite reads. It reads very cinematically, but without being clunky or overly dramatic. Mydans did an incredible job of placing you in the events with impeccable and convincing detailing.

She draws together seemingly disparate parts and paints a picture of Becket that makes you appreciate with what monumental difficulty and sacrifice his heroic virtue was attained.

This is a story of a man and how he became a legend, not just for his friendship with a king and his own personality cult prior to his consecration as bishop, but also, or perhaps even more so, for what he sacrificed in order to defend what he perceived as the rights of the church against a secular power grab.

I am in awe of Mydans' ability to bring together so many aspects of medieval culture, historical detail, and truth to character of St. Thomas and Henry II in a narrative that compels your attention and inspires Catholics with a love of the Faith and a desire to emulate his example.

I had never heard of this gem of a book until I ran across it at an estate sale. I've seen the film version of Thomas Becket's life but this filled in many details glossed over in the cinematic treatment. The novelization allows the author to really bring the characters to life and makes you feel as though you are part of the action.

This book was completely engrossing. I read most of it on airplanes during a recent trip, and this book made the 2- and 3-hour flights I was on seem brief. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in religion or world history, as this book touches upon an important clash between religious and secular power during medieval times.

The book offers a fine balance between the reverential, hagiographical legends that sprung up after Becket's murder and what probably actually took place. It also offers a balance between Becket's position and those of his critics. Overall it gives a detailed portrait of this highly complicated figure, and his transformation from scholar and clerk, to solider and chancellor, to archbishop, martyr, and saint. The book is largely sympathetic to Becket's point of view, which from my understanding of the subject is warranted, despite what modern, worldly critics say. The numerous, documented miracles after Becket's martyrdom that are touched upon in the book give testament to Becket's struggle.

I found this book in a used bookstore looking like it'd never been picked up since its 1967 paperback printing date. And that's a shame. This is among the best historical novels I've read in a long career of such books. Mydans brings Beckett to life in all his complicity, passions and vaingloriousness (is that a word?) Henry II isn't as finely drawn, but then, this is a book about Thomas Beckett. It shows plainly his prideful and spiteful role in the feud that for five years nearly tore the Church apart. But there is something sympathetic about him that helps us understand, nearly a millennia later, why he was reverenced for so many years.

Mydans uses much source material and there is never a doubt that what we're reading could easily have transpired, despite the passive of a thousand years since his death in 1170. So many historical novels depicting that century and earlier seem to star characters who are really 20th-century creatures in costume. Not so here.

Beckett enjoyed a spurt of popularity in the 1960s. It's been enough time that his life should be revisited. And this book was a pleasure in that journey.


Life photojournalistCarl Mydans dies at 97

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.

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.


‘Frankenstein’ Was Born During a Ghastly Vacation

Thunder, lightning and flickering candles. It sounds like the stuff of a horror story𠅊nd for Mary Shelley, it was. She wrote her masterpiece Frankenstein when she was just 19 years old, and the dark, stormy summer nights that helped bring her monstrous creation to life were nearly as dramatic as the novel itself.

Strangely enough, the saga of Frankenstein started not with a vision but with a volcano. In 1815, a gigantic volcanic eruption at Mount Tambora in Indonesia choked the air with ash and dust. The eruption killed roughly 100,000 people in its immediate aftermath, but the overall toll ended up being much higher—it is now considered to be the deadliest volcano eruption in history.

The next summer, the warm growing season never came. Instead of sunshine, most of Europe was covered in fog and even frost. Crop failures stretched across Europe, Asia and even North America for three years afterward. Famines, epidemics and political revolts followed. Historians estimate that at least a million people starved in the aftermath of Tambora’s eruption, while tens of millions died from a global cholera pandemic that it unleashed.

Mary Shelley, 1831. (Credit: Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

During those three years of darkness and famine, some of Europe’s greatest artists created theirꃚrkest and most enduring works. Mary Shelley was among them𠅋ut when she arrived at Lake Geneva in May 1816, she was looking for a vacation, not literary inspiration. Unfortunately the weather was so ghastly in Switzerland that she was trapped inside nearly the entire time.

Mary traveled with her lover, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, their four-month-old baby and her stepsister, Claire Clairmont. At the time, Claire was pregnant with a child by Lord Byron, the groundbreaking poet whose personal affairs had made him one of England’s most divisive celebrities. Most recently he had divorced his wife and, rumor had it, continued an�ir with his half-sister. Plagued by gossip and debt, he decided to leave Europe.

After Byron’s departure, the obsessed Claire convinced Mary and Percy to travel to Geneva with her. A few days later, Byron𠅌learly unaware that Claire would be there𠅊rrived in town. Mary, who had eloped with her married husband when she was just 17 and was subsequently disowned by her intellectual family, sympathized with the scandalous poet.

Percy and Byron, who had been fans of one another’s work, soon formed an intense friendship. They abandoned their other travel plans and rented nearby properties along Lake Geneva. During the frigid evenings they gathered with the rest of the group at theVilla Diodati, the stately mansion Byron had rented for his stay along with John Polidori, his doctor. They read poetry, argued, and talked late into the night.

Villa Diodati, near Geneva, where literary character Frankenstein was created in 1816. (Credit: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

The terrible weather kept them inside more often than not. Thunder and lightning echoed through the villa and their conversations turned to one of the big debates of the day: whether human corpses could be galvanized, or re-animated, after death. Mary, whoꃞscribed herself as 𠇊 devout but nearly silent listener,” sat near the men and absorbed every word of their speculation about the limits of modern medicine.

As the days plodded on, conflicts between the vacationers began to simmer. Byron was annoyed by Claire’s attempts to enchant him. Mary had to fight off sexual advances from Polidori, who had become obsessed with her. Percy was depressed. By the time three days of rain trapped them inside the villa, tensions had reached a boiling point.

They coped by reading horror stories and morbid poems. One night, as they sat the candlelit darkness, Byron gave them all a challenge: write a ghost story that was better than the ones they had just read. Inspired by a tale of Byron’s, Polidori immediately complied. His novella “The Vampyre,” published in 1819, is the first work of fiction to include a blood-sucking hero—which many think was modeled on Byron himself.

Mary wanted to write a story, too, but she couldn’t land on a subject. “I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative,” she later wrote. But one sleepless night, as thunder and lightning echoed off the lake, she had a vision. “I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out,” she wrote, 𠇊nd then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life.”

Illustration from the second edition of the horror story Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1831. (Credit: Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

The next morning, she could say yes when she was asked if she had a ghost story in mind. Her਋ook, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, incorporated the eerie setting of the Villa Diodati and the morbid conversations of the poets. The story she later called her “hideous progeny” asks what happens when men pretend they are gods—inspired, perhaps, by the hubris of the company she kept in Switzerland.

Though she did not know it, Mary’s book, which was published in 1818, would go on to revolutionize literature and popular culture. But the lives of the vacationers did not end happily. Polidori committed suicide in 1821. Percy Shelley drowned during a freak storm in 1822, when he was just 29 years old. Byron took the daughter he had with Claire, Allegra, away from her mother and sent her to a convent to be educated she died there in 1822 at age 5. Byron died in 1824 after contracting a fever.

Of the group, only Mary and Claire lived past age 50. But the book that creepy summer inspired𠅊nd its terrifying story of life after death—lives on today.

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Watch the video: Good for the soul A conversation with HD Streetwise founder Shelley Hubon


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