Over several decades spanning the heart of the 20th century, one American magazine ― calling itself, plainly and boldly, LIFE ― published many of the most memorable photographs ever made. Driven by the certainty that the art of photojournalism could tell stories and move people in ways that traditional reporting simply could not, LIFE pursued a grand vision, articulated by the magazine’s co-founder, Henry Luce, that not only acknowledged the primacy of the picture, but enshrined it.
“To see life,” Luce wrote in a now-famous 1936 mission statement, delineating both his new venture’s workmanlike method and its lofty aims. “To see the world; to eyewitness great events . . . to see and be amazed.”
The roster of talent associated with Luce’s audacious publishing gamble is, in a word, staggering: W. Eugene Smith, Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Carl Mydans, Andreas Feininger, John Loengard, Gordon Parks, John Dominis, Hansel Mieth…
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