Wayne F. Miller, the American photographer best known for his photo series The Way of the Northern Negro, which chronicled the lives of black Americans in Chicago after the Second World War, has died. He was 94.
Miller died Wednesday after a short illness in Orinda, Calif., where he had lived for 60 years, according to his granddaughter Inga Miller.
Wayne Miller 'wanted to bring the white and black races together, and thought to make a photo documentary to introduce black Chicago to white Chicago and to white America' — gallery owner Paul Berlanga
Miller, who was president of Magnum Photos for six years, captured the images for Dr. Benjamin’s Spock’s bestselling book A Baby’s First Year and photographed stars such as Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne.
However, most of his work documented the lives of ordinary Americans for publications such as Life, Ebony, the Saturday Evening Post. Miller said his ambition was to "photograph mankind and explain man to man."
He lived in the golden age for photography, when images tied to cutting edge journalism riveted the public imagination.
Magnum's current president, Alex Majoli, praised Miller as a pioneer who "paved the ground for the rest of us who tried to depict the streets, the real life."
Born in Chicago in 1918, Miller studied banking at the University of Illinois, Urbana, while working part-time as a photographer. He went on to study photography at the Art Center School of Los Angeles from 1941 to 1942.
Early pictures of Hiroshima
During the Second World War, he worked in Edward Steichen's Naval Aviation Unit and assigned to the Pacific theatre, where he took some of the first photos of the atomic bomb-devastated Hiroshima.
His best-known wartime photograph depicts a wounded pilot being pulled from a downed fighter plane. Miller had been scheduled to be aboard the plane and the photographer who took his place was killed, according to his granddaughter.
After the war, Miller settled in Chicago and won two consecutive Guggenheim Fellowships, which he used to photograph African-Americans who had come to the northern states in search of work.
"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," said Paul Berlanga, director of Chicago's Stephen Daitler Gallery.
"He wanted to bring the white and black races together, and thought to make a photo documentary to introduce black Chicago to white Chicago and to white America."
The originals from his photo series The Way of the Northern Negro are now held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Smithsonian Institution. The photos were also published in his book Chicago's South Side, 1946-1948.
The Family of Man exhibit
Miller was also known for his work co-curating the MoMA's international photojournalism exhibition The Family of Man with Steichen. Featuring hundreds of portraits by photographers from all over the world, the exhibit offered striking snapshots of the human experience, with an emphasis on birth, love and joy, but also showing war and privation. The exhibit toured the world for eight years and was collected in a bestselling book, also called The Family of Man.
His photograph of his son David, being delivered as a baby by Miller's grandfather, became iconic and was included in a time capsule Carl Sagan assembled and launched into space on Voyager 1 and 2 in the late 1970s.
After working on A Baby’s First Year, Miller created his own book featuring photos of children: The World is Young.
Active in environmental causes since the 1960s, Miller worked with the National Park Service in the late ‘60s and, after retiring from professional photography in 1975, devoted himself to protection of California's redwood forests, restoring a clear-cut forest with his wife, Joan, and lobbying for incentives for landowners to protect their trees.