Many of the images from the pages of LIFE magazine are iconic: the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-J Day by Alfred Eisenstaedt, the aerial shot of a near drowning on Coney Island by Margaret Bourke-White, Gordon Parks' "American Gothic" portrait of cleaner Ella Watson, Larry Burrow's photo of a GI shot dead onboard the Yankee Papa 13 in Vietnam, Phillipe Halsman's swirling composite of artist Salvador Dali in "Dali Atomicus" and Milton Greene's photo of Marilyn Monroe. The Great LIFE Photographers eatures pictures by more than 200 of the century's best photojournalists on staff at the magazine throughout its history. But lesser-known works still retain enormous storytelling power decades later, attesting to the skill and artistry of photographers who placed themselves mere feet from the action to frame the shot. George Strock was following troops in New Guinea when he discovered the bodies of three U.S. soldiers half-buried in the sand of Buna Beach in 1943. Carl Mydans caught the faces of terrified young children huddled in the snow hiding from a Russian air raid in 1940s Finland, and George Roger snapped a young German boy walking past hundreds of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp corpses in 1945. Some works such as Lennart Nilsson's microphotography of the moment of conception; William Vandivert's photo of young Welsh girl badly injured in the Blitz; W. Eugene Smith's picture of a mother bathing her deformed daughter, a victim of mercury poisoning, in Japan in 1971; and Michael Rougier's portrait of a Korean boy found orphaned by his mother's dead body made the world wonder and inspired change. And some, like the picture of Joseph Goebbels' cold, hard stare taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1933, prove that immutable truths can be caught forever by a lens in a box. Deanna Larson is a writer in Nashville.

 

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