Photographer Wayne Miller died on Wednesday at the age of 94. Miller, who created a ground-breaking series of portraits about black Americans in Chicago, also served with an elite Navy unit during World War II.
Miller was known for incredible combat images of WW II as well as his work as a curator on an international photojournalism exhibition called “The Family of Man.”
Born in Chicago, Miller trained for a life-long career in banking. But he became a photographer after fashion photographer Edward Steichen picked him as part of a military unit to document the war.
Miller took several photographs while assigned to the Pacific theatre, including some of the first pictures of Hiroshima after the Japanese city was devastated by an atomic bomb. But his best war-time photograph was of a wounded pilot being pulled from his downed fighter plane.
After he returned to Chicago from the war, Miller spent two years on the city’s struggling south side, capturing the experiences of black residents. Many of them had moved north during the war in search of jobs and civil rights. Paul Berlanga, director of Chicago’s Stephen Daitler Gallery, stated of the photo series:
“He was tired of what a good job photography was doing of showing the way we were destroying each other and he decided to come back and have the medium connect people in a more meaningful fashion. He wanted to bring the white and black races together.”
While Wayne Miller typically photographed ordinary Americans, his subjects also included emerging stars like Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Eartha Kitt. Miller reunited with Steichen in the 1950s, when they pot together a Museum of Modern Art exhibit called “The Family of Man.”
The exhibit featured hundreds of portraits by photographers around the world. A book based on the exhibit sold more than four million copies.
Wayne Miller’s granddaughter, Inga Miller, stated that the famous photographer lived in Orinda, California for six years before he died. He was ill only in the last few weeks of his life.