Magnum photographer Wayne Miller has died

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Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1918, Wayne F Miller began his photographic career during World War II when he was selected to join an elite naval combat photographic unit.

“One of Miller’s most recognised photographs from the war shows a wounded pilot being pulled from his fighter plane,” says Miller’s family. “By tragic coincidence, Miller had been scheduled for the flight and the photographer who had taken his place was shot and killed while documenting the firefight. While Miller’s war photography documented soldiers both at ease and in combat, tragedy dominated.”


Miller was also one of the first photographers to arrive at Hiroshima to document the devastation left by the atomic blast. “Miller throughout his life kept a piece of the rubble, a Japanese teacup into which glass had melted, at the doorway to his darkroom as a memorial,” adds his family.

After the war, he received the Guggenheim fellowship for photography in 1946 and 1948 to document the community around Chicago.

“Often turning the lens on his own family, Miller’s poignant visual explorations of American baby boomers and their lives made him one of the leading documentarians of his generation,” says Magnum Photos in a statement. “But, arguably, his career defining work was made on Chicago’s South Side, where he covered the social, cultural and economic manifestations of the greatest internal migration in American history that saw thousands of black American families arriving in Chicago on a weekly basis. His photos of these communities in flux are seminal images of American history, each one freighted with the context of what it was to be black in postwar Chicago.”

In his career, Miller worked for Life Magazine, Ebony, Newsweek, the Saturday Evening Post, National Geographic, among many others. “He paved the ground for the rest of us who tried to depict the streets, the real life. He was a pioneer,” says Magnum Photos’ current president Alex Majoli. “With the utmost respect and great sorrow I have to say goodbye to a master I was so fortunate to meet, even if it was only on a few occasions.”

In the mid-1970s, Miller retired as a professional photographer and co-founded the Forest Landowners of California organisation. “The group’s work resulted in major changes that led to creation of sustainable regulations for forest management for California forest land that remain in place today,” says the family. “Miller’s own forest land continues to serve as an example of sustainable logging practices.”

Miller is survived by his wife, Joan, his four children, Jeanette Miller, David Miller, Dana Blencowe, and Peter Miller, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

For more about Wayne Miller, visit the Magnum Photos website.