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Photographer Wayne Miller remembered as a pioneer

Wayne Miller, a renowned photographer who chronicled World War II before producing his career-defining series on black families living in postwar Chicago, died Wednesday. He was 94.

Born in Chicago in 1918, Miller served as a U.S. Navy combat photographer in a unit commanded by Edward Steichen. He was one of the first photographers to visit Hiroshima after the atomic bomb fell in August 1945.

Magnum historian Russell Miller says he was the “antithesis of the hard-nosed photojournalist.” Despite his exposure to war and racism, he had a mission “to document the things that make this human race of ours a family.”

Returning home to Chicago, the seasoned photographer received two Guggenheim fellowships and started documenting the city’s black community after wartime migration. The groundbreaking work was published in his book “Chicago’s South Side.”

After teaching at the Institute of Design in Chicago, Miller moved to Orinda, California, in 1949 and started working for Life magazine.

He then reunited with Steichen to help curate “The Family of Man,” a historic exhibition that traveled the world and was viewed by more than 9 million people.

Miller’s experience with the exhibition led him to explore the universal truths of childhood in the book “The World Is Young” in 1958. It was hailed as a brilliant record of youth during the baby boomer generation.

He joined Magnum Photos that same year and was president of the collective from 1962 to 1968. Alex Majoli, Magnum’s current president, calls him a pioneer.

“He paved the ground for the rest of us who tried to depict the streets, the real life,” Majoli said. “It might have seemed like golden years for photographers now, but he had to invent himself in many ways.”

An active environmentalist, Miller went to work for the National Park Service before joining the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as executive director of the Public Broadcasting Environmental Center in 1970.

After retiring from professional photography in 1975, he devoted himself to protecting California’s forests.

Magnum archivist Matt Murphy remembers Miller as easy-going and humorous, eager for his work to reach a wider audience through digitization.

“I doubt I ever got off the phone with him without having a big grin on my face,” Murphy said.

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

- Eileen Flanagan, CNN