Wayne F. Miller

Wayne Miller (1918-2013) was born in Chicago. As a young man at the University of Illinois, he strained against convention, opting away from the banking/business template his hopeful father had designed, and committing instead to the then almost inconceivable pursuit of photography as a career.  From 1940-42 he studied photography at the Art Center School of Los Angeles until the outbreak of the Second World War whereupon  he enlisted in the US Navy where he was assigned to Edward Steichen’s Naval Aviation Unit, covering the war mainly in the Pacific Theatre. During those years Miller tried to record the war through the eyes of the fighting man, while risking his own life on a daily basis.  Miller also photographed the misery and resilience of the Japanese in Hiroshima almost immediately after the atomic bomb was dropped.   After the war, Miller was awarded two consecutive Guggenheim Fellowships (1946-48) in support of his body of work entitled “The Way of Life of the Northern Negro,” which was later published as Chicago’s South Side (UC Berkeley, 2000)Also in 1947-48,Miller briefly taught at Chicago’s Institute of Design before moving to California where he worked for Life magazine before being called to New York, with his family by his old captain, Edward Steichen.  From then through 1955 Wayne Miller functioned as co-curator (with considerable assistance from his wife Joan) of the groundbreaking “Family of Man” exhibition, the world’s first traveling “super-show.”   Steichen and Miller shared a deep sense of the power of photography as a tool in creating understanding and global cooperation between ostensibly disparate peoples.  After the tremendous success of that show, Wayne Miller and his family returned to California, where he created what always remained his favorite and most personal project – the documentation of his own family, published as the best-selling  The World is Young,(Simon & Schuster, 1958). He also became a member of Magnum Photos in 1958, serving as its president from 1962-66. Miller worked freelance for the great magazines during the golden age of photojournalism, completing hundreds of assignments, all the while from the perspective of a humanist, trying to “explain man to man.”   During the 1970s Miller became interested in forestry, conservation in land management and environmental education for all ages but especially the young, and spent the rest of his life largely devoted to these issues.  A modest man, Wayne always eschewed the trappings of the art world per se, saying “What the hell is fine art ?  I think fine art is a day you’ve done well.”  Wayne F. Miller: Photographs 1942-1958, the first overview of Miller’s career was published in 2008 by PowerHouse Books.  Wayne Miller is represented in a multitude of collections both private and public.