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Original author: 
Vaughn Wallace

To photograph mankind and explain man to man — that was how legendary photographer Wayne Miller described his decades-long drive to document the myriad subjects gracing his work. Miller passed away Wednesday at the age of 94 at his home in California.

Rene Burri—Magnum

Rene Burri—Magnum

Wayne Miller in 2001

Miller began pursuing photography while attending college at the University of Illinois, Urbana, shooting for the school’s yearbook. Following a two-year stint at the Art Center School of Los Angeles, Miller started working as a photographer for the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater under Edward Steichen’s Naval Aviation Unit.

“We had Navy orders that allowed us to go any place we wanted to go and, when we got done, to go home,” Miller said in an interview with the American Society of Media Photographers. “It was fantastic.”

Miller’s reportage-style images of life and death aboard U.S. aircraft carriers provide a visual narrative for a field of battle largely unknown to the American public. Miller’s war-time photographs illustrate the tension and tragedy of bloodshed and destruction underneath the beautiful skies and billowing white clouds of the South Pacific.

And after Japan capitulated in September 1945, Miller was one of the first photographers to enter Hiroshima, documenting the unimaginable effects of the 20-kilton atomic bomb detonated over the city the previous month. Miller photographed victims suffering from acute radiation poisoning and severe shock in the ruins of a city reduced to rubble in one great flash.

Miller received two grants from the Guggenheim Foundation to photograph his next major project, a documentary look at the streets of Chicago’s South Side, his hometown. Shooting between 1946 and 1948, his work — a mix of portraits and environmental scenes — broke convictions for its look at the black communities living and working in postwar Chicago.

USA. Illinois. Chicago. 1948. An alley between overcrowded tenements, with garbage thrown over the railings of the back porches. Most of the area's tenants were transient.

Wayne Miller—Magnum

An alley between overcrowded tenements, with garbage thrown over the railings of the back porches. Most of the area's tenants were transient. Chicago, 1948.

“Up until that time, these [photographs] were considered snapshots by the public and by the commercial world,” he told ASMP. The visual weight of his work didn’t go unnoticed — the hope, worry, excitement, struggle and leisure pictured in ‘The Ways of Life of the Northern Negro’ remains striking even to modern viewers today.

After his Chicago body of work, Miller went on to work as a photographer for LIFE until 1953. He began collaborating with his old boss, Steichen, on a new project called the “Family of Man” — an ambitious look at the commonalities among humans around the world through the work of 273 photographers (including Miller). As an associate curator, Miller helped Steichen produce and organize the show’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955. One of Miller’s photographs even graced the cover of LIFE that February.

Miller held the title of president of the prestigious Magnum photo agency from 1962-1968, leading the cooperative before beginning a career with the National Park Service and later, CBS. In the mid 1970s, Miller put down his camera to follow his passion for the environment, purchasing a small plot of redwood forest in Mendocino County. For the next several years, he worked to combat tax laws that favored clear cutting forests. He continued to push for sustainable practices through retirement.

Miller is survived by his wife Joan, four child, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.

The film about Miller’s career, embedded above, is ‘The World is Young” by Theo Rigby, a photographer and filmmaker based in San Francisco.

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.

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When Binh Danh was a child he noticed the impression of objects left on a grass lawn over time. This observation, combined with an early fascination with science and a personal legacy of war—Danh immigrated to the States as a child refugee from Vietnam—would later coalesce into the series of images for which he is most widely known. Danh appropriates iconic images of the Vietnam War and prints them on organic material such as leaves and grass, using a unique printing process he calls Chlorophyll printing. The images—ethereal and fragile, endowed with a sense of heart-wrenching loss—speak poetically of memory, impermanence and the remnants and aftermath of war.

April 30th marks the 37th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the official end of the Vietnam War. For Danh, a Vietnamese American, the legacy of that conflict is complex and profoundly personal: photography is his means to connect with the painful shadows of that legacy by empowering a narrative that grounds him in his own identity. “It’s something that my parents I think want to talk about, but it’s difficult for them to communicate because they have such a direct relationship to what happened,” he says.

The artist uses two different processes to create his images. The first resembles traditional black and white printing where a negative is placed on a living patch of grass or leaf. Like the imprint of a hose on a green lawn, light-blocking material removes the green chlorophyll pigment from organic matter. The image transfers when the dark portions of the negative block light, removing the pigment, while the transparent sections keep the underlying portion of the grass or leaf alive. In the second method, grass is cut and layered on a board to form a canvas onto which the artist projects a positive. The clear part of the transparency that lets sunlight through gets washed out, forming an image.

In an ode to the impermanence and fragility of memory, it is impossible to chemically fix the photograph like a silver gelatin print. The artist recommends pressing the material in a book to retain color, and displaying and storing them away from direct sunlight. However, Danh takes this a step further and casts his work in resin, which, for him, becomes a way to preserve the leaf to hold onto that memory. “I feel that when we forget about the memory of war, war can happen again,” he says. “And of course in this country we forget very quickly.”

Binh Danh is an artist presented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco and Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz. See more of his work here.

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In Before the Lights Go Out, my new book about the future of energy, I made a joke about the formation of fossil fuels that I would like to rescind.

"All three fossil fuels come from the same place—ancient plants and animals that died and were buried beneath layers of earth and rock, often millions of years before dinosaurs roamed this planet. (That's right. Oil isn't made from dinosaurs. But an apatosaurus makes a better corporate mascot than a phytoplankton does.)"

After watching this video about the secret lives of plankton, produced by TEDEducation and marine biologist Tierney Thys, I feel that the above statement is in error. Clearly, plankton—including phytoplankton, which are just tiny plants, as opposed to zooplankton, which are tiny animals—would make excellent mascots. Somebody at Standard Oil really dropped the ball on this one.

Side Note: I found this video through a link to The Kid Should See This, a blog that aggregates kid-friendly wonders from science, art, technology, and more. If you aren't reading it, you should be. Even if you don't have kids.

Via Jason Robertshaw

Video Link

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