"I am making a record of historic times"

July 3, 2011 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography

From History's Big Picture:

“Sometimes people have asked me why I devoted so much of my life to to covering these terrible scenes, these disasters, these wars. And there is an important reason. When I began as a photojournalist I was interested in the history that was developing around me, whether it was the hundreds and hundreds of people I photographed who were the homeless wandering along the roads during the days of the Farm Security Administration, or other pretty heart-rending scenes that I saw in those days.

Why did I pursue those scenes ? Because they were evidence of one of the most important developments of my time, and I have been attracted all my life to important historical developments Some were good, lots of them were not. And I had and still have a compulsion to record history. Remember, after LIFE was born, we went through years of war. Now it is true that I could have done what some photojournalists did and in some way avoided war. But I have never avoided covering a development of our time because it threatened me. I do not think of myself as being tough. Determined is a much better description. It has never been too hot or too cold or too hard or too tiring for me to keep on going on a story worth telling. And war is one of those stories.

I want to make it clear it is not because I liked war. They were awful periods. I have often been in places where it was so terrible, where I was so frightened, where I could criticize myself for being there by saying what are you doing, why are you here? The answer always has been that what I am doing is important, and that's why I am here. --Carl Mydans

Tags: Life magazine Carl Mydans FSA war photography History's Big Picture