The Extraordinary Career of the Photojournalist Max Desfor (41 pics)




The photographer Max Desfor covered many of the most significant events and personalities of the 20 th century while working for the Associated Press. Beginning in the 1930s, Desfor traveled the world, photographing daily life, unrest, celebrities, warfare, and more. Much of his reporting took place in Asia, where he documented events in the Pacific during World War II. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1951 for his extensive and powerful coverage of the Korean War. Desfor also photographed world leaders from Mahatma Gandhi to Richard Nixon, performers from Orson Welles to Charlie Chaplin, and ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, such as the crew of the Enola Gay.  Collected here, in rough chronological order, are a few of Max Desfor’s images from 1938 to 1983. (See also, a New York Times story about Desfor from 2013.)

Associated Press photographer Max Desfor was on hand to capture the scene aboard the battleship Miss

Associated Press photographer Max Desfor was on hand to capture the scene aboard the battleship Missouri as the Japanese surrender documents were signed in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.

A curious crowd of thousands of onlookers nervously watch John Ward as he perched himself on a ledge

A curious crowd of thousands of onlookers nervously watch John Ward as he perched himself on a ledge on the 17th floor of the Gotham Hotel on Fifth Avenue in New York, threatening to jump, on July 26, 1938. Several times spectators scurried backward as it appeared Ward would leap from his precarious perch.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josephus Daniels, ambassador to Mexico, as they arrived at a 4-H

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josephus Daniels, ambassador to Mexico, as they arrived at a 4-H Club encampment in Washington on June 14, 1940.

Emil ‘Dutch’ Leonard, star right-hander of the Washington Senators, hurls in batting pra

Emil ‘Dutch’ Leonard, star right-hander of the Washington Senators, hurls in batting practice in Washington to loosen up his arm after two months of inactivity, on July 19, 1942. Leonard wears a catcher's shin guard to protect the injured leg which forced him out of the lineup.

Corporal Louis Peter Kontas of Malden, Massachusetts, sounds taps at a Marine cemetery on Okinawa, J

Corporal Louis Peter Kontas of Malden, Massachusetts, sounds taps at a Marine cemetery on Okinawa, Japan, on July 23, 1945, where are buried Marines who died in the assault on the island. Kontas himself was wounded during the fighting for Okinawa and holds the Purple Heart.

Members of the 382nd Regiment, 96th Division on Okinawa, indulge in a little horseplay with some Jap

Members of the 382nd Regiment, 96th Division on Okinawa, indulge in a little horseplay with some Japanese souvenirs on August 1, 1945. From left: Sergeant James D. Wreyford of McNeil, Arkansas, holding Japanese rifle; Private J.T. Bullard of Henderson, Texas, with sword; Technical Sergeant Jack Bohannan of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, with flag; and Private First Class Pat O'Reilly of San Francisco, California, with pistol.

The B-29 superfortress Enola Gay lands at its Tinian base after its its historic bombing mission ove

The B-29 superfortress Enola Gay lands at its Tinian base after its its historic bombing mission over Hiroshima, Japan, where it dropped the world’s first atomic bomb used as a weapon on August 6, 1945.

Aerial view of Hiroshima on September 5, 1945, after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6.

Aerial view of Hiroshima on September 5, 1945, after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6.

Returning to their home in Tokyo on October 11, 1945, after having evacuated during American air-rai

Returning to their home in Tokyo on October 11, 1945, after having evacuated during American air-raids on the Japanese capital, an old, bearded Japanese man leads a horse pulling a wagon loaded with other members of the family and their household goods past the wreckage of buildings on the city outskirts.

Bespectacled Mahatma Gandhi laughs with Jawaharlal Nehru, at the All-India Congress committee meetin

Bespectacled Mahatma Gandhi laughs with Jawaharlal Nehru, at the All-India Congress committee meeting in Bombay, India, on July 6, 1946. Nehru took office as president of the Congress during the session.

During the t he Partition of India, Muslim refugees, evacuated from areas of unrest in New Delhi, li

During the t he Partition of India, Muslim refugees, evacuated from areas of unrest in New Delhi, line up for water with any type of container at Purana Qila, the old fort, in New Delhi, India, on September 17, 1947. This is the only water tap within the camp, where it takes anywhere from one to three hours to get water. There were an estimated 20,000 people at this refugee camp with little food or water and just the barest of housing facilities. The people here do not know what plans their government has for them or how long they will stay.

Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi lies on his bed at Birla House, New Delhi, January 17, 1948,

Indian spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi lies on his bed at Birla House, New Delhi, January 17, 1948, on the fifth day of a fast. Dr. Sushila Nayyar kneels by his bedside and reads from a paper. Gandhi ended his fast the next day when Muslim and Sikh communities in Delhi had pledged to strive for mutual communal harmony.

After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, p olice, the military, and volunteer guards attempt to be

After the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, p olice, the military, and volunteer guards attempt to beat back the crowds as they surge forward towards the funeral pyre in New Delhi on January 31, 1948.

Nomad camp at base of Lataband Pass in Karkacha Hills, Afghanistan, on October 8, 1949.

Nomad camp at base of Lataband Pass in Karkacha Hills, Afghanistan, on October 8, 1949.

Actor Orson Welles is seen at right standing on Scala dei Giganti , or The Giants' Stairway, on

Actor Orson Welles is seen at right standing on Scala dei Giganti , or The Giants' Stairway, on the set of the film Othello , under a statue of Neptune, in Venice, Italy, on November 8, 1949. Others are, from left to right: actor Nicholas Bruce as Ludovico; and actress Elaine Shepard, visiting the set.

Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the grounds of the Villa Guardaman

Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the grounds of the Villa Guardamangia, Malta, on November 23, 1949, where the Princess was staying during her visit to the island.

British gun carriers, heading south, pass a knocked-out Russian T-34 tank on a demolished bridge at

British gun carriers, heading south, pass a knocked-out Russian T-34 tank on a demolished bridge at Osan, South of Suwon, South Korea, on January 6, 1950.

U.S. Marines cover a wounded North Korean soldier as he hoists himself to stretcher in the Naktong R

U.S. Marines cover a wounded North Korean soldier as he hoists himself to stretcher in the Naktong River sector of the Korean front on August 23, 1950. The captive was flushed out of a nearby rice paddy, still clutching his automatic weapons. A search of his clothing disclosed an American watch, lighter, and other items apparently taken from a dead U.S. soldier.

Smoke rises from enemy-held Pohang on the northern Korean front, August 16, 1950, in this aerial vie

Smoke rises from enemy-held Pohang on the northern Korean front, August 16, 1950, in this aerial view from a U.S. observation plane. Combined U.S. and South Korean forces were battling to drive invaders back from nearby Pohang airfield, still in allied hands but within range of enemy artillery.

U.S. Marines crouch behind a railing in Seoul on September 27, 1950, as they answer fire from some N

U.S. Marines crouch behind a railing in Seoul on September 27, 1950, as they answer fire from some North Korean snipers left behind to try and hamper the American advance into the South Korean capital.

An indignant resident of Seoul clipped a Korean communist sympathizer on the chin in this street sce

An indignant resident of Seoul clipped a Korean communist sympathizer on the chin in this street scene after U.S. Marines and South Korean forces reoccupied the South Korean capital late in September.

Rubble litters streets and smoke from burning buildings fills sky as tanks lead UN forces in the rec

Rubble litters streets and smoke from burning buildings fills sky as tanks lead UN forces in the recapture of Seoul on September 28, 1950.

Fatigue, not an enemy bullet, stopped this American marine who catches 40 winks on a Seoul Street un

Fatigue, not an enemy bullet, stopped this American marine who catches 40 winks on a Seoul Street unperturbed by his audience of young and old residents in Seoul on September 28, 1950.

Paratroopers drop from U.S. Air Force C-119 transport planes during an operation over an undisclosed

Paratroopers drop from U.S. Air Force C-119 transport planes during an operation over an undisclosed location in Korea, in October of 1950.

Paratroopers of the United Nations forces jump from aircraft near the North Korean towns of Sukchon

Paratroopers of the United Nations forces jump from aircraft near the North Korean towns of Sukchon and Sunchon, about October 20, 1950.

The Songchon River bridge into Hamhung is destroyed by demolition teams to slow the advance of Commu

The Songchon River bridge into Hamhung is destroyed by demolition teams to slow the advance of Communist troops as United Nations troops evacuated the North Korean industrial city after the retreat from Chosin Reservoir.

In this December 4, 1950 photo, residents from Pyongyang, North Korea, and refugees from other areas

In this December 4, 1950 photo, residents from Pyongyang, North Korea, and refugees from other areas crawl perilously over shattered girders of the city's bridge, as they flee south across the Taedong River to escape the advance of Chinese Communist troops.

Marine Corporal Charles Price of Chattanooga, Tennessee, sounds taps for his buddies on December 17,

Marine Corporal Charles Price of Chattanooga, Tennessee, sounds taps for his buddies on December 17, 1950 who died in the retreat of United Nations forces from the Changjin Reservoir area and now lie in fresh graves in a military cemetery at Hungnam.

A large column of smoke mushrooms skyward as supplies and military installations are dynamited at Hu

A large column of smoke mushrooms skyward as supplies and military installations are dynamited at Hungnam, North Korea on December 27, 1950, to prevent their use by the enemy. An American destroyer patrols Hungnam Harbor.

A trainload of refugees halts at a crossing near Osan, South Korea on January 15, 1951, as a British

A trainload of refugees halts at a crossing near Osan, South Korea on January 15, 1951, as a British tank carrying military personnel gets right of way. The United Nations forces battled way back to recapture Osan and other towns in the immediate vicinity.

A pair of bound hands and a breathing hole in the snow at Yangji, Korea, on January 27, 1951, reveal

A pair of bound hands and a breathing hole in the snow at Yangji, Korea, on January 27, 1951, reveal the presence of the body of a Korean civilian shot and left to die by retreating Communists during the Korean War.

Harold Mayes, (standing) sports editor for Empire News, chats with Sugar Ray Robinson, boxer, at a t

Harold Mayes, (standing) sports editor for Empire News, chats with Sugar Ray Robinson, boxer, at a training camp at Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, on August 31, 1951 . Robinson was training for his return championship bout against Randy Turpin.

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Table Rock House to view Niagara Falls in Can

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh arrive at Table Rock House to view Niagara Falls in Canada on October 15, 1951 . In the background is the Rainbow Bridge and the American Falls to right of it.

The combination of two comparative novelties to Japanese audiences, TV, and American wrestling, brin

The combination of two comparative novelties to Japanese audiences, TV, and American wrestling, bring out a tremendous crowd of fans watching the bouts on an outdoor screen in Tokyo, Japan on February 21, 1954. NTV televised the bouts between visiting American wrestlers and Japanese opponents. The crowd that completely filed and jammed the street cheered, booed, and applauded as if they were right at the ringside.

Following a teacher on TV, two young women exercise at home in Tokyo, Japan, on November 5, 1963. Th

Following a teacher on TV, two young women exercise at home in Tokyo, Japan, on November 5, 1963. The 15-minute program was one of several on Japanese TV directed especially to housewives who wished to exercise for beauty.

Desfor revists Hiroshima in 1970, 25 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.

Desfor revists Hiroshima in 1970, 25 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon visits Canton Park in Canton, China, on February 28, 1976.

Former U.S. President Richard Nixon visits Canton Park in Canton, China, on February 28, 1976.

Members of the family of Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek stand beside his coffin at it is

Members of the family of Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek stand beside his coffin at it is closed during his funeral in Taipei, Taiwan, on April 16, 1975. Shown from left are grandson Chiang Hsiao-Wu; Premier Chiang Ching-Kuo, one of Chiang’s sons; Soong May-ling, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, and General Chiang Wei-Kuo, another son.

Hundreds of years ago in Japan, equestrian sports were part of an ancient Imperial court ceremony to

Hundreds of years ago in Japan, equestrian sports were part of an ancient Imperial court ceremony to invoke the aid of the ancestors and of the Emperor and Empress for a good harvest, peace, and welfare. One of these sports performed by the samurai warriors, yabusame , came to be regarded as a sacred rite, conducted with true Shinto rituals. Yabusame continues to be held by direct descendants of these ancient warriors and lords as they were performed by heir ancestors hundred of years ago. The participants are dressed in dazzling, colorful silk brocaded costumes, with black lacquered hats. The rider mounts his horse and gallops at full speed down a marked out lane. He then successively shoots an arrow at each of the three targets standing near the lane. Prizes are given for the best score. This event was staged on the grounds of Tokyo’s famous Meiji Shrine on December 3, 1976.

Smog from smokestacks at a power plant darken the sunset in Washington, D.C., in 1983.

Smog from smokestacks at a power plant darken the sunset in Washington, D.C., in 1983.

Retired Associated Press photographer Max Desfor stands next to his photograph of Japan's formal

Retired Associated Press photographer Max Desfor stands next to his photograph of Japan's formal surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in Washington, D.C., on May 24, 2004, at an exhibit of Associated Press World War II photographs.




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