Having started out as a newspaper reporter, Carl Mydans (1907-2004) switched over to the camera and at the height of the Depression worked for the Farm Security Administration, documenting the travails of migrant farm families. After signing on with LIFE, he and his wife, Shelley, became the magazine’s first roaming photographer-reporter team. In 1941 they were sent to China to cover Japanese bombing raids there; late in the year they were trapped in Manila when the Japanese overran the Philippines, and they were held captive for nearly two years before being repatriated in a POW exchange. When the prison camp was about to be liberated, Douglas MacArthur sent Mydans in with the first tanks. Of course, Mydans’s picture of MacArthur “returning” to the Philippines is one of history’s most celebrated photographic images. Mydans was known also for his intriguing portraits of such as Pound and Faulkner. In the words of David Hume Kennerly, “Carl Mydans is a photographer’s photographer and a human’s human.”
In the prison camp at Santo Tomas in the Philippines, said Shelley Mydans, “they didn’t feed us, so we were very hungry, and we were sick sometimes.” Rogers and Todd, at right, were among the three dozen men with whom Carl shared a room at the prison. Between them, the duo lost 131 pounds during their four years of internment.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers