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The 75 best LIFE photos

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The 75 best LIFE photos

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  2. 2. The Kiss: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1945 Perhaps the most famous photo ever to appear in LIFE is Alfred Eisenstaedt's portrait of the spontaneous jubilation that broke out with the announcement that World War II was over. Eisenstaedt recalled that the sailor was kissing every gal in sight and managed to get four snaps of him in a clinch with this nurse. He never got their names, and while many credible contenders stepped forward over the years, LIFE never conclusively confirmed any of the claimants. Their identities remain a mystery; what they were feeling at that moment does not.
  3. 4. Charlie Chaplin: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1952 On the set of  Limelight , Charlie Chaplin re-created the turn-of-the-century London music halls where he had learned his craft as a mime and a comic actor even before the dawn of the silent film industry. In this intimate portrait, photographer W. Eugene Smith saw the great actor and director, in his sixth decade, returning to the clowning of his youth. Crazy, scary talent? Yep, he's still got it.
  4. 6. Ingrid Bergman in Italy: Photo by Gordon Parks, 1949 In 1949, Ingrid Bergman, the luminous (and married) Swedish star of  Casablanca  and  Notorious , traveled to Italy to work with a director she very much admired: Roberto Rossellini. During the production of their movie  Stromboli , Bergman's admiration blossomed into love, and her affair with Rossellini led to a scandalous pregnancy. LIFE's Gordon Parks, a trusted friend of Bergman's, was on the  Stromboli  set during what must have been a fraught time for the actress, and he captured in his portraits the mystery and sadness that were central to the Bergman's onscreen appeal. In the most famous photo from the shoot, three local women stop to stare at the actress, their censorious air foreshadowing the extreme Stateside reaction to the affair. Parks' photo -- perfectly composed to highlight the old women in black against the young actress in white -- is infused not just with melancholy but defiance.
  5. 8. The Puppet Show: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1963 Yes, LIFE's photographers took many classic images of the powerful, the rich, and the famous -- but Alfred Eisenstaedt's gift was making stars out of everyday people, by patiently observing and capturing them in magical moments of joy and wonder. Here, he trains his eye on a young audience at a puppet show in a Paris park: Each delightful child reacts in an extreme and distinct way to the moment when St. George slays the dragon, displaying a range of emotions -- amusement, horror, triumph, fear -- that hints at the many facets of the human experience.
  6. 10. Lindy Hop: Photo by Gjon Mili, 1943 In this artful, exuberant picture Gjon Mili photographs professional dancers Willa Mae Ricker & Leon James showing off the Lindy Hop. The dance evolved in 1927 after Lindbergh's flight when improvisational dancers in Harlem's Savoy Ballroom caused an observer to exclaim, "It looks like their doin' the Lindy Hop."
  7. 12. Goin' Home: Photo by Ed Clark, 1945 Navy Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson had played the accordion often for Franklin D. Roosevelt during the polio-stricken president's frequent visits to the spa at Warm Springs, Ga. He was scheduled to play for him again on April 12, 1945, the day Roosevelt died at the LIttle White House in Warm Springs. Instead, the officer found himself leading the funeral procession the next day, tears streaming down his face while he played such mournful dirges as "Goin' Home" and "Nearer My God to Thee." Ed Clark's photo captures the honest pain felt by those who'd just lost the man who led them through the Depression and to the doorstep of victory of a war against global tyranny.
  8. 14. Marlene Dietrich: Photo by Milton Greene, 1952 "Mystery is a woman's greatest charm," screen star Marlene Dietrich once reportedly said. If that's the case, then Milton Greene's portrait of her -- taken when Dietrich was 46 -- is the most charming ever to run in LIFE. In it, the alluring "Blonde Venus" is all silky hair and long legs; the rest of her, like so many of the characters she played through the years, is shrouded in darkness.
  9. 16. The American Way: Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, 1937 In Margaret Bourke-White's indelible, sadly ironic Depression-era photo, African-American victims of the Louisville Flood wearily assemble to receive food and clothing from a Red Cross relief station. The juxtaposition with the billboard is, clearly, nothing short of surreal -- but it took a keen eye to see the picture whole. Bourke-White, one of the LIFE's first staff photographers, later said that when the magazine's founder Henry Luce saw the difference between her flood photos and those from the news services, he realized that his photographers deserved credit lines.
  10. 18. Agony: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1944 Army medic George Lott, badly wounded in both arms grimaces as doctors mold a cast to his body in November of 1944. When Lott embarked on a 4,500-mile, seven-hospital journey of recovery, LIFE's Ralph Morse -- astonished by the high level of medical care wounded troops received both at the front and behind the lines -- traveled with him, chronicling Lott's odyssey in a revelatory story for the magazine. This photograph, which appeared as a full-page image in the January 29, 1945, issue of LIFE, gave millions of Americans a window into an aspect of the conflict that many had never fully grasped: the raw, relentless agony visited on the injured.
  11. 20. Bobby on the Beach: Photo by Bill Eppridge, 1968 Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, looking almost like a college athlete in his sweater and rolled-up pants, bounds down an Oregon beach, his faithful dog Freckles close behind. Just days after Eppridge took this photo, he followed Kennedy on to California, where he witnessed the senator's assassination. The photographer's shocking black-and-white image of RFK sprawled and dying on the floor of the Ambassador Hotel stands as the most famous photo from June 6, 1968 -- but this shot fulfilled another purpose: When LIFE's editors had to select an image for the cover of the memorial issue, a tasteful and meaningful tribute to another good man gone too soon, this one was the clear choice.
  12. 22. Liberation of Buchenwald: Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, 1945 Margaret Bourke-White -- one of LIFE's four founding photographers -- always made it her business to be in the right place at the right time. In this case, she was with the Allied troops when they liberated Buchenwald, one of the Holocaust's most notorious concentration camps. Among the many terrifying pictures she made that day-- piles of bodies, skulls -- none is more haunting than this portrait of dazed, skeletal prisoners. Just by looking in their eyes, we sense the horrors they've known. This picture brought home to LIFE readers the insanity of the regime they had just defeated, and reminded them what they were fighting for.
  13. 24. Eyes of Hate: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1933 At a League of Nations conference in 1933, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels remains seated while speaking to his interpreter. German-born Alfred Eisenstaedt, later one of the founding photographers of LIFE, recalled that Goebbels smiled at him until he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish -- a moment Eisenstaedt captured in this photo. Suddenly, "he looked at me with hateful eyes and waited for me to wither," the photographer recalled. "But I didn’t wither." Not only didn't he wither, he managed to take perhaps the most chilling portrait of pure evil to run in LIFE's pages.
  14. 26. Peek-A-Boo: Photo by Ed Clark, 1958 So much is unseen in this photo -- Kennedy's face, baby Caroline's mouth -- and yet we not only know exactly what's happening but can feel the father-daughter bond as if we were in the room. The charisma that was Kennedy's defining attribute fairly emanates from this photo, just as this classic image of what was in essence just another happy family man would later remind readers of the true tragedy of Nov. 22, 1963.
  15. 28. "The Marlboro Man": Leonard McCombe, 1949 Leonard McCombe's portrait of Clarence Hailey Long, the 39-year-old foreman of the JA ranch in the Texas Panhandle, so completely embodied the rugged, romantic spirit of the West, that advertising giant Leo Burnett used it as the model for a long-running and highly successful ad campaign: the Marlboro Man.
  16. 30. The Longest Day: Photo by Robert Capa, 1944 No other photograph taken on D-Day matched the great Robert Capa's intense, jittery, "you are there" picture of American forces landing on Omaha Beach, June 6, 1944. Under withering German machine-gun fire, loaded down with weapons and other gear, the Allies took massive casualties -- and still they pushed up the beach. With its heady mix of clarity and chaos, taken in the very thick of the battle, Capa's is simply one of the most iconic war photographs ever made -- and a mere glimpse into the savagery and courage that came to define World War II's "longest day.”
  17. 32. The Great Soul: Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, 1046 In a iconic 1946 photo, Mohandas Gandhi poses alongside his spinning wheel, a symbol of his nonviolent movement for India's independence from Great Britain. This, one of many portraits of the Mahatma ("great soul") taken by LIFE's Margaret Bourke-White -- but certainly the most well-known -- shows the Great Soul at his serene essence, placidly reading in a scene that evokes his philosophy of nonviolence and national pride.
  18. 34. Face of Death: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1943 Seven decades after it was taken, Ralph Morse's gruesome picture of a Japanese skull propped beside the turret of a disabled tank in a clearing on Guadalcanal remains one of the most intensely unsettling war photographs ever made. First published in the February 1, 1943 issue of LIFE, the photo presented the magazine's readers with as graphic a depiction of war's horrors as any of them would ever encounter. (NOTE: While this image was accompanied by a caption in LIFE suggesting that the skull was placed atop the tank by American troops, Morse himself recalls that the grisly scene was far more likely part of a Japanese boobytrap. The Japanese, Morse says, probably placed the skull on the tank in hopes of luring curious American troops near -- troops they would then kill with machine-gun fire trained on the location. Warned by a platoon sergeant, Morse nevertheless ran into the clearing, took this picture, and raced back again.)
  19. 36. Picasso and Centaur: Photo by Gjon Mili, 1949 For this 1949 portrait of Pablo Picasso in his studio in the south of France, the artist was inspired by Gjon Mili's previous photos of ice skaters spinning through the air with small lights attached to their skates. Mili left the shutters of his cameras open as Picasso made ephemeral drawings in the air of a darkened room. This one was of one of a centaur. Mili caught the artist himself by using a 1/10,000th-second strobe light. This photo ranks among LIFE's best partly because it actually captures the moment of creation by a genius.
  20. 38. Freedom Riders: Photo by Paul Schutzer, 1961 Julia Aaron and David Dennis were among the Freedom Riders trying to integrate interstate buses and terminals in 1961. After the Riders had been greeted by beatings and firebombings during much of their journey, they finally received National Guard protection on this ride, from Montgomery, Ala., to Jackson, Miss. Once they stepped off the bus in Jackson, however, the riders were arrested when they tried to desegregate the station.  Shutzer's photo perfectly distills the uneasy relationship between the Riders and the men a not-always-benevolent government sent to protect them.
  21. 40. Jumping Royals: Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1959 Among the celebrities and notables that Philippe Halsman asked to jump for his famous photo series were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor -- that is, the former King of England and the controversial American for whom he gave up the throne. In theory, Halsman's photo was remarkable --  royals can be this playful?  -- but in execution, it was even more so: Other than the position of their feet and the mildly surprised expression on the duke's face, the Windsors manage to maintain their cultivated bearing. Her hair and jewelry are static, his lapels crisp, their postures ramrod-straight -- as if they're out to meet the plebes on any other day.
  22. 42. Sand of Iwo Jima: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1945 The bitter brutality of the Battle of Iwo Jima is brought home in W. Eugene Smith's 1945 photo of Marines taking cover as explosives obliterate a Japanese bunker -- one of the most violent pictures ever to make the cover of LIFE. Composed as if by a master painter (Hieronymus Bosch comes to mind), Smith's picture perfectly encompasses the apocalyptic destruction inherent in modern warfare. It is also implausibly, unsettlingly beautiful.
  23. 44. RFK's Assassination: Photo by Bill Eppridge, 1968 Bill Eppridge's utterly haunting photograph of a mortally wounded Robert Kennedy sprawled in his own blood on the kitchen floor of Los Angele's Ambassador Hotel, his head gently cradled by a stunned busboy named Juan Romero, remains one of the signature images of the 1960s. The assassin, a Jordanian citizen named Sirhan Sirhan, claimed to have shot RFK because of the senator's vocal support for Israel -- a claim that, if true, made the murder the first high-profile act of violence on American soil tied directly to strife in the Middle East. But whatever Sirhan's motives, the June 5, 1968, assassination -- coming mere months after the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- seemed to justify the fear shared by countless Americans of every political persuasion that, in fundamental ways, the country was ripping itself violently and perhaps irrevocably apart.
  24. 46. Winston Churchill: Photo by Yousuf Karsh, 1941 Photographer Yousuf Karsh, a master of lighting, captures Winston Churchill's indomitable spirit like no other portrait did before or after. Here is the man who stared down Hitler. Here is the man who would not break.
  25. 48. Meeting Peace With Firehoses: Photo by Charles Moore, 1963 During a nonviolent march demanding desegregation in public facilities in Birmingham, Ala., the city's infamously racist public-safety chief, Bull Connor, ordered firefighters to turn high-pressure firehoses on the peaceful demonstrators. Photos of the unwarranted tactics, including this one by Charles Moore -- with it's almost Christ-like scene of a man being pinned down -- helped turned national sentiment against segregation and for the civil-rights movement.
  26. 50. One Ride With Yankee Papa 13: Photo by Larry Burrows, 1965 Over the decades, while LIFE published dozens of photoessays by the 20th century's greatest photographers, few combined the raw intensity and technical brilliance of Larry Burrows' "One Ride With Yankee Papa 13" -- widely seen as the single greatest photographic achievement to emerge from the war in Vietnam. In his breathtaking chronicle of a young helicopter crew fighting for their lives at the very moment America is ramping up its involvement in Southeast Asia, Burrows' photoessay anticipated the scope and the dire, calamitous arc of the entire war in Vietnam. This picture of 21-year-old crew chief James Farley shouting to the pilot of the copter as it comes under fire and his comrades lie wounded, was the cover image of the April 16, 1965, issue of LIFE. America, the picture suggests, is in for a long, long fight.
  27. 52. Unconquered: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1944 A grizzled, weary American peers over his shoulder during the final days of fighting during the July, 1944 Battle of Saipan. The pivotal Allied victory there, 1,500 miles south of Tokyo, was earned at the cost of 3,000 American lives. This picture -- easily among the most striking and immediately recognizable of LIFE's countless war photos -- was the 1940s equivalent of saying to the American public:  We didn't start this fight. But we're going to finish it.
  28. 54. Jack and Bobby: Photo by Hank Walker, 1960 Then-U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy confers with his brother Robert F. Kennedy in a hotel suite during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Looking at Hank Walker's image today, through the filter of all we know now -- that Jack would indeed win the nation's highest office, with Bobby by his side as his most trusted adviser; that the brothers would navigate the United States through almost three years of magic and turbulence; that each man would be cut down by an assassin's bullet by decade's end -- the poignancy is astonishing. And yet, even without the context of that history, the photo, with all its fascinating details and near-perfect composition, stands alone as powerfully intimate: The sunlight filters through the drapes. The bedclothes are rumpled, the cuffs and collars sharp. And the silhouetted brothers, backs bent under some unknowable weight, lean into each other.
  29. 56. Sophia Loren: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1966 For the Sept. 16, 1966, issue, Sophia Loren graced the cover while dressed in a diaphanous gown and barely-there lingerie -- a scene from the 1964 movie  Marriage Italian-Style  shot by LIFE photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. While many readers thought LIFE had sunk to pornography -- one typical reader wrote in, “Thank goodness the mailman comes at noon when my children are all at school” -- the photo became an instant classic. (Loren herself loved image, describing it years later as a "beautiful" photo of "a young woman being happy and sexy.") Today, the photo stands out as one of the magazine's best -- and sexiest.
  30. 58. Alexander Solzhenitsyn Breathes Free: Photo by Harry Benson Harry Benson's 1981 portrait of the dissident Russian writer in exile in Vermont captures a notoriously prickly and even unpleasant legend in an unguarded, vulnerable moment. Benson's brilliance -- as a photographer capable of getting close to his subjects -- made the picture possible: when Solzhenitsyn said that he liked to breathe the air in America because it felt free, Benson asked the Nobel Prize-winner to show him what he meant. Solzhenitsyn obliged. Benson got the shot.
  31. 60. A Child Is Born: Photo by Lennart Nilsson, 1965 "This is the first portrait ever made of a living embryo inside its mother's womb." So began the text that accompanied Lennart Nilsson's 16 groundbreaking photographs in the April 30, 1965, issue of LIFE. The story -- called "The Drama of Life Before Birth" -- was an unprecedented photographic feat that showed the stages in the growth of the human embryo. Simply put, it changed the way we look at how humans develop. The photos were detailed, dramatic, haunting, and humbling -- and among the most amazing science photos ever taken. Every one of the 8 million copies of LIFE printed sold out with four days. The praise came swiftly -- and so did the controversy, which has never quite died down. Pro-life and pro-choice groups argued bitterly over the conclusions to be drawn from Nilsson's unmistakeable photographic achievements.  This photo shows a 17-week-old fetus whose nails are clearly visible on developing fingertips.
  32. 62. Mark Spitz: Photo by Co Rentmeester, 1972 Mark Spitz is shown in training in August 1972, training that would pay off a month later at the Munich Olympics: Spitz won a record seven gold medals, setting a record in each event. The photographer, LIFE's Co Rentmeester, was himself a former Olympian, having rowed for the Netherlands at the 1960 games. This photo, infused with Spitz's effort, strength, and determination, delivered on one of LIFE's core promises: to bring its readers as close to the action as they could possibly get.
  33. 64. Reaching Out: Photo by Larry Burrows, 1966 Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah Purdie (left), wounded in a firefight during "Operation Prairie" in Vietnam, reaches out to a stricken comrade in Larry Burrows' astonishing 1966 photograph. Here, in what might be the greatest picture from a legendary career, Burrows captured for LIFE magazine's millions of readers both unfathomable desolation and galvanic camaraderie in the utterly alien universe of Southeast Asia. That the image, made at the very height of the Civil Rights era, depicts a black soldier desperately trying to aid a wounded White comrade only adds an unavoidable resonance -- unintended on Burrows' part -- to an already emotionally devastating tableau.
  34. 66. Born Ready: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1959 This straightforward yet riveting portrait of astronaut John Glenn by LIFE's Ralph Morse -- a man who spent so much time chronicling the lives of the original Mercury 7 astronauts that Glenn himself dubbed Morse "the eighth Mercury astronaut" -- neatly captures the almost preternatural confidence and clear-eyed sense of purpose that Glenn and his colleagues not only shared, but embodied. It's easy to forget now, but during the race into space of the late 1950s and early 1960s, America seemed to forever be playing catch-up with the USSR. The Soviets beat the U.S. into space with  Sputnik  in 1957; in 1961, a cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin became the first human to travel in outer space. But less than a year after Gagarin's flight, when 39-year-old Glenn orbited Earth, NASA-- and the nation -- suddenly found itself with a genuine hero straight out of central casting: a blue-eyed, no-nonsense Marine Corps fighter pilot and Korean War vet (married to his high school sweetheart, no less) who quickly became  the  face of America's emerging preeminence in the era-defining Space Race. Morse's photograph, meanwhile, became the one image that an entire generation of Americans forever associated with John Glenn: a man who was born ready.
  35. 68. Country Doctor: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1948 The subject of W. Eugene Smith's celebrated 1948 photo essay "Country Doctor," Dr. Ernest Ceriani, the overworked physician of Kremmling, Co., was the only doctor within a 1,200-square-mile region. In this image, he is in a dazed state of exhaustion, having a cup of coffee in the hospital kitchen at 2 a.m. after performing a caesarean section where the baby and the mother both died because of complications. The classic photo reveals him as simultaneously heroic and tragic -- and absolutely unforgettable.
  36. 70. Jet Age Man: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1954 An Air Force pilot with patterns of light covering his face and shoulders is measured, like a contour map, for a perfectly fitted flight helmet in this 1954 Ralph Morse photo. Morse, whose technical brilliance so often meshed with his eye for the startling, striking image, managed in this portrait to perfectly illustrate the cover story of the December 6, 1954, issue of LIFE: a report titled, simply, "Jet Age Man."
  37. 72. Steve McQueen: Photo by John Dominis, 1963 He photographed Steve McQueen naked, making out with his sexy wife, and riding a motorbike across the Mojave. But of all the photos LIFE's John Dominis took during the three weeks he spent hanging out with the actor, none so clearly illustrates the intersection of McQueen's onscreen "King of Cool" persona and his real life as this one frame (which, astonishingly, was never published in the magazine). Perfecting his aim before going out for an afternoon of target practice, McQueen is exactly the badass you think he is -- shades on, collar popped, gun cocked.
  38. 74. Three Americans: Photo by George Strock, 1943 When LIFE published this George Strock photograph of three dead American soldiers who'd been ambushed by the Japanese on Buna Beach in New Guinea, it was the first time the U.S. media showed American war dead who hadn't been covered up or draped in flags. The photo, taken in February 1943, wasn't published until September 1943 as the Department of War Information debated what to do with it -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally gave it his blessing because he wanted to jerk the public out of what he felt was a creeping complacency. The photograph itself is frightening well-composed, with the trail of sand-covered bodies leading to the hulking wreckage of the landing vehicle that brought these young soldiers to their deaths.
  39. 76. 3-D Movie Audience: Photo by J.R. Eyerman, 1952 J.R. Eyerman's peek inside the opening-night screening of  Bwana Devil , the first full-length color 3-D feature, certainly is peculiar: Men and women, young and old all angle in the same direction, formally dressed but for those silly specs over their eyes. Funny as it is, with the audience members coming off like clones of an alien species, there's also prescience in the photo -- not just about the emergence of special effects in cinema but also, on a deeper level, about the hypnotizing nature of our entertainment.
  40. 78. The Beatles in Miami: Photo by John Loengard, 1964 In John Loengard's popular photo of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, taken during their first trip to America, the lads' famous mop tops bob undisturbed above the water's surface. The pool was quite chilly that day, thanks to a cold snap -- check out Ringo's grimace -- and Loengard has said the Beatles even began to turn blue; still, in the short minutes he had to get this shot, the photographer cleverly asked the boys to sing, and thus managed to draw out the playfulness and passion that made them so beloved.
  41. 80. Before the Wedding: Photo by Michael Rougier, 1962 Perhaps the charm of this Michael Rougier photo, capturing a North Dakota bride before she walks down the aisle, lies in its relatability: Anyone who has been in this moment, mere minutes away from making the commitment of a lifetime, can see this woman peering out her window and instantly understand the fluttery mix of anticipation, anxiety, and perhaps even apprehension she appears to feel.
  42. 82. Gunhild Larking: Photo by George Silk, 1956 Photographer George Silk worked for LIFE for 30 years, memorably covering the Battle of the Bulge from the front lines and the demolished city of Nagasaki days after the bomb was dropped. But at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia, Silk turned his lens on Gunhild Larking, a Swedish high jumper. Larking, 20, is all focus, waiting pensively for her turn to compete, as the crowd behind her fades out. The sultry beauty would finish 6th that day but Silk's unexpected portrait of athleticism and beauty won her legions of fans.
  43. 84. A Leopard's Kill: Photo by John Dominis, 1966 For eight months in 1966, LIFE photographer John Dominis tracked big cats on game preserves in Africa, capturing their unique physical attributes, hunting rituals, and social habits. The results were published in a fascinating three-part photo essay in January '67, starting with a study of the sly, solitary, savage leopard. This wonderfully composed picture (note the curl of the leopard's tail and the antelope's outstretched hoof) depicts a leopard that has dragged its kill in a tree's branches, away from vultures and wild dogs looking for carrion. And yet, with the African sun setting in the distance, Dominis makes the scene look almost romantic.
  44. 86. Sea of Hats: Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, 1930 The legendary – and legendarily intrepid -- Margaret Bourke-White shot the magazine’s first cover. (She was also the first Western photographer allowed into the U.S.S.R, the first accredited woman photographer in WWII, and the first to fly on a combat mission.) Bourke-White loved the overhead vantage point and, indeed, some of her most famous pictures were taken from airplanes. Here, she looks down on the frantic yet seemingly choreographed buzz of men milling about on 36th St. between 8th and 9th Avenues in the heart of New York City's Garment District.
  45. 88. Pied Piper of Ann Arbor: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1950 A uniformed drum major for the University of Michigan marching band practices his high kicks, garnering an unintended following of seven admiring children who want to imitate his flamboyant technique. Eisie's joyously cheerful 1950 photo is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
  46. 90. Both Sides Now: Photo by John Shearer, 1971 Muhammad Ali was notorious for his pre-fight teasing of opponents -- but in the run-up to his epic, era-defining "Fight of the Century" against Joe Frazier in March 1971, Ali's taunting veered from friendly ribbing to vicious, ad hominem assaults. He questioned Frazier's manhood, his "blackness," his courage, his intelligence. For his part, Frazier largely kept his mouth shut, and trained. And trained. And trained. When their title bout at New York's Madison Square Garden ended, Frazier had handily defended his championship crown -- knocking Ali to the canvas at one point with a thunderous left hook that, among many boxing fans, is still simply known as "The Punch." Here, in a perfectly symbolic image by LIFE's John Shearer, Ali clowns around during an unannounced visit to Frazier's training camp. For his part, Frazier barely deigns to even look at Ali, and instead offers one simple gesture: a clenched fist.
  47. 92. Littlest Survivor: Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1943 At Saipan in 1943, hundreds of Japanese civilians committed suicide rather than surrender to the Americans. As the Marines were clearing hiding Japanese from local caves, they found this infant, wedged face-down in the dirt, under a rock, nearly dead. One of the famous images of World War II, W. Eugene Smith's photo caught a rare moment of both brutality and gentleness that was unique in the annals of war photography.
  48. 94. Lion in Winter: Photo by John Bryson, 1959 Photographer John Bryson was on assignment for a magazine other than LIFE -- taking pictures of Ernest Hemingway's wife, Mary, at their Ketchum, Idaho, home -- when he took this photo of Papa kicking a can down the road. "This was the best picture I ever had taken," Hemingway reportedly later told LIFE's editors. What's so notable, especially in retrospect, about the image is the strange combination of playfulness and -- with the lowering clouds; the stark, frozen landscape -- an almost palpable sense of something like doom. A year-and-a-half after Bryson took this photo, Hemingway committed suicide with a shotgun blast to the head. He was 61.
  49. 96. Liz and Monty: Photo by Peter Stackpole, 1950 During a break in filming the romantic drama  A Place in the Sun , Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift chat on the Paramount lot. Peter Stackpole's photo not only captures the intimacy between the actors -- they would become incredibly close friends, and six years later she would even save his life after he smashed his car into a telephone pole near her house -- but also shows how, even in "candid" moments, movie stars have an awareness of the camera and how to play to it: Notice that as Liz leans, she pushes out her chest and hips and kicks up her heel; meanwhile Monty, with that slight slouch and hand in pocket, keeps his unflappable cool.
  50. 98. 'Dali Atomicus': Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1948 At the end of his shoot with artist Salvador Dali -- a session that took six hours and 28 throws (of water, a chair, and three cats), "my assistants and I were wet, dirty and near complete exhaustion," photographer Philippe Halsman reported. The resulting image, with a leaping Dali in midair amid the madness, is a portrait as kinetic and surreal as artist's own work.
  51. 100. Suiting Up: Photo by Yale Joel, 1954 There's nothing like putting on a new baseball uniform -- unless, like these Manchester, NH, Little Leaguers dressing for a game in 1954, you discover that not everyone has a complete set of clothes. The pint-sized leader Dick Williams' defiant stance in this at-once amusing and stirring Yale Joel photo imparts a timeless message: No matter how old you are, sometimes baseball is far more than just a game.
  52. 102. It's a Girl! Photo by Wallace Kirkland, 1954 Jane Dill, four months pregnant, reacts at a lab in Northbrook, Illinois, after being told the chemical wafer on her tongue indicates she's carrying a baby girl. But the noteworthy thing about this photo -- besides, of course, the delightful emotion it conveys -- is that it is, in itself, a reaction shot: In the split second that Mrs. Dill goes agog, Kirkland presses his button, and an incredible image is born.
  53. 104. Center of Attention: Photo by Leonard McCombe, 1956 Actress Kim Novak draws the eyes of an entire dining car's male population as she eases into her seat for a meal on the New York-bound 20th Century Limited. Lust was never crystallized so perfectly as in this Leonard McCombe photo, perhaps the best LIFE ever published showing the power a sexy young woman can have over middle-aged men.
  54. 106. Twilight of the Idol: Photo by John Dominis, 1965 In perhaps the greatest-ever photograph of a legendary athlete in decline, John Dominis captured New York center fielder Mickey Mantle at Yankee Stadium in June 1965, at a point in his career when alcohol, injuries, and plain old advancing age were dulling the incandescent talents of the future Hall of Famer. Here, in Dominis' photo, Mantle flings his batting helmet away in frustration after a terrible at-bat -- a gesture that, even in the twilight of his career, Mantle managed with physical grace and, somehow, a kind of flair.
  55. 108. In a Spanish Village: Photo by Eugene Smith, 1951 In 1951, about halfway between Madrid and Portugal, legendary LIFE photographer Eugene Smith wandered off the main road and into an old village called Deleitosa. Smith's famous photo essay, called "Spanish Village," documented daily life -- and death -- among the 2,300 peasants of Deleitosa, including Francisco Franco's much-feared civil guards ominously standing watch on every street corner, ready to enforce national law.
  56. 110. Georgia O'Keeffe: Photo by John Loengard, 1966 LIFE's John Loengard famously photographed painter O'Keeffe -- "the grand, solitary woman," as the magazine called her -- in 1966, at her desert home the year she turned 80. While there, Loengard captured the bones, stones, and flowers that inspired her groundbreaking work. But it was this hauntingly contemplative portrait of the artist that truly seemed to illustrate O'Keeffe's relationship to her beloved New Mexico: So still and beautifully craggy, she almost seems part of the landscape itself.
  57. 112. Clouds Over Seligman, Arizona: Photo by Andreas Feininger, 1947 Like a scene from "High Noon," it's so quiet in Andreas Feininger's photo of Seligman, Arizona, you can almost hear the clock ticking. The clouds gather dramatically overhead, but not much happens here: a bus leaves town, a guy loiters in front of the Texaco. Feininger was known for his nearly scientific renderings of architecture, but in this 1947 portrait of Route 66, he captures the wide open American West as few have before or since.
  58. 114. Parting the Sea in Salt Lake City: Photo by J.R. Eyerman, 1958 A multitude of sedans appears to kneel before larger-than-life Charlton Heston as Moses, his arms flung wide, as he parts the Red Sea in Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood epic,  The Ten Commandments,  at a Utah drive-in. As in his classic photo of people watching a 3-D movie at Hollywood's Paramount Theater in 1952, J.R. Eyerman's wry take on popular culture manages to distill in a single photograph the sometimes unsettling power of the moving image.
  59. 116. Airplane Over Manhattan: Photo by Margaret Bourke-White, 1939 Bourke-White loved the aerial view and loved to document the architecture of power. Here, from the vantage point of a second plane, she locks in on two modern marvels: the sleek, muscular Douglas 4 flying over Manhattan, a city humming with opportunity.
  60. 118. Before Camelot, a Visit to West Virginia: Photo by Hank Walker, 1960 At 43, John F. Kennedy was the youngest person ever elected president, and during his campaign for the office it was largely this quality -- the man's engaging, youthful dynamism -- that so captured the imagination of millions. As Kennedy and his team ran a heady, propulsive campaign unlike any America had seen, LIFE photographers were there, chronicling the grind of countless public appearances. Some of the images they captured, however, carry a resonance today that echoes in ways those photographers could never have imagined. Take the Hank Walker picture above: While security was part of every candidate's retinue, it was simply not the pressing, public concern in 1960 that it would suddenly and necessarily become within a few very short years. Here, seemingly without any security presence at all during a stop in Logan County, West Virginia, JFK speechifies from a kitchen chair as, mere feet away, a young boy absently plays with a jarringly realistic-looking toy gun.
  61. 120. A Boy's Escape: Photo by Ralph Crane, 1947 LIFE was known for its war photography, celebrity shoots, and glimpses of Americana. But what's often overlooked is the tradition of groundbreaking technical photography that no other magazine could bring and that, in some instances, the human could not even see. This picture -- a reinactment of a disturbed boy's escape from a children's home -- is a flawless example of technical excellence, a masterful combination of high speed strobes, exquisite timing, and dramatic composition. Readers weren't there to witness the boy's escape, but thanks to Ralph Crane's technical wizardry, they knew what it felt like.
  62. 122. Marilyn Monroe Sings for JFK: Photo by Bill Ray, 1962 For the 15,000 spectators at Madison Square Garden on May 19, 1962 -- including LIFE photographer Bill Ray -- Marilyn's breathy, intimate rendition of "Happy Birthday" to President John F. Kennedy amplified the buzz about an affair between the two. But beyond the titillation, the moment Ray captured in this, his most iconic shot, went on to play a major role in both Marilyn's and JFK's biographies, coming as it did near the end of their short lives. You don't even need to see her face to know who she is: There she stands in the spotlight, unbelievably sexy, in a fleeting moment that would forever link sex and politics in the American consciousness.
  63. 124. Richard M. Nixon, Attorney at Law: Photo by George Lacks, 1946 The year he first entered politics, running a successful campaign for Congress at the Republican party's behest, WWII vet Richard M. Nixon stands in the door of his California law office. At the time it was taken, perhaps George Lacks' portrait was nothing extraordinary. But today, knowing all we do about the disgraced future president, it is fascinating: Nixon's hangdog, almost defeated expression seems unlikely for a man who aspires to become the leader of the free world -- and yet it also hints at the paranoia and insecurities that would be his undoing.
  64. 126. Dennis Stock: Photo by Andreas Feininger, 1951 LIFE's Andreas Feininger always had an eye for the beauty and energy of the inanimate -- his best work showed the majesty in skylines, in machines, in bridges and tunnels. Here, Feininger uses an object -- a camera -- to build a creative, almost loving portrait of fellow photographer Dennis Stock (who also shot for LIFE, and has an image, of James Dean, included in this gallery). Positioning the lens and viewfinder as Stock's eyes, Feininger pays homage to his own profession: The photographer's camera, he's saying, is a piece of himself.
  65. 128. James Dean: Photo by Dennis Stock, 1955 In 1955, the same year he'd die in a horrible collision on a California highway, James Dean walks through Times Square on a rainy day. Dennis Stock's photo is illustrative of the actor's persona -- a true rebel don't need no umbrella -- but also quietly speaks to Dean's professional roots (in New York, where he studied at the Actors Studio) and his legacy (see the long shadow stretched across the slick street).
  66. 130. Sugar Ray Robinson in Training: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1950 Sugar Ray Robinson, considered the greatest boxer of his generation and perhaps of all time, was known for living large -- in fact, he's credited with originating the sports entourage. Which is one reason that this photograph is so special. Here, LIFE's Ralph Morse captures the champ in a private moment: Robinson, reflected in the mirror, is caught mid-skip and a good eight inches off the ground, a look of a determination on his face, while his trainer whistles, tapping out time with his foot. Morse' shot is so perfect you can almost hear that whistling and the brush of the rope upon the floor.
  67. 132. New York's Heart: Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1943 Manhattan's's Pennsylvania Station -- the grand, McKim, Mead & White-designed beauty demolished in the early 1960s, not the sterile abomination that bears the name today -- was for decades the very heart of New York City, and Alfred Eisentaedt's masterfully composed photograph of its glorious, vaulted waiting room is among the most iconic photographs ever made of New York. The graceful interplay of the building's arches; the bustle of the crowd; the beautiful, prominent clock; the halo of natural light through glass -- every element of the picture combines to celebrate a great city's boundless energy and, even in the midst of war, its confidence.
  68. 134. Sinatra Takes a Steam: Photo by John Dominis, 1964 For four months in 1964, photographer John Dominis trailed the Chairman of the Board for an extensive LIFE cover story -- and much of that time was spent just trying to get the 49-year-old superstar, naturally suspicious of outsiders, to warm up to him. This photo, of Frank taking a steam bath to clear his head after a night of heavy boozing, stands not only as an astonishingly vulnerable image of a sometimes standoffish man, but also as a testament to Dominis' skill in getting his subjects to let their guard down.
  69. 136. MacArthur Coming Ashore: Photo by Carl Mydans, 1945 Gen. Douglas MacArthur (center) kept his famous promise, personally storming the beach at Lingayen Gulf on his way to retaking the Philippines in early 1945. (Accompanying him were, from left, Gen. Richard Sutherland and Col. Lloyd Lehrbas.) Tracking MacArthur's progress was LIFE photographer Carl Mydans, who had been captured during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in 1941 and had spent two years as a prisoner of war. Mydan's picture has become one of the most famous -- and unabashedly triumphant -- images of the war.
  70. 138. Into the Light: Photo by Eugene Smith, 1946 Eugene Smith, who captured some of the rawest, most unsettling images of the Second World War, was seriously wounded by mortar fire while covering the Battle of Okinawa in the spring of 1945. A year later, in the midst of a grueling recovery from his injury (he could barely hold a camera) and as America struggled with its hard-won transition from war to peace, Smith resolved that the first photograph he made in the post-war era would be not of destruction or despair, but affirmation. Here, in a picture of his own son and daughter, Patrick and Juanita, on a walk near their home, Smith masterfully conveys not only a sense of near-mythic mystery -- two children emerge from a shadowy wood into the sunlight after who-knows-what adventures -- but, somehow, an entire nation's mood.  Danger is past,  the photo suggests.  The future beckons.
  71. 140. Jukebox Sirens: Photo by Bill Ray, 1965 In early 1965 LIFE's Bill Ray spent several weeks with a gang of outlaw rebels: the Hells Angels. In this beautiful chiaroscuro photo, two of the gang members' "old ladies" hang out at a bar in the middle of the afternoon, hammered on beer and benzedrine. While none of Ray's images ever ran in LIFE (the story was killed by editors who felt that no readers would be interested in these "smelly bastards") this picture holds its own with the finest in the magazine's history: a portrait utterly of its time and yet somehow timeless, with an atmosphere that is sad and defiant at once.
  72. 141. Bill Cosby: Photo by John Loengard, 1969 This surprising, commanding portrait by LIFE's John Loengard led off a sprawling profile of Cosby in the April 11, 1969 issue of the magazine. Even without seeing his face, Cosby is instantly recognizable -- is there a clearer signal of icon status? -- and the cigar completes the portrait of power. How good was Loengard's eye? He eventually became the magazine picture editor.
  73. 144. A Wolf's Lonely Leap: Photo by Jim Brandenburg, 1986 Jim Brandenburg's 1986 photograph of an arctic wolf jumping from one ice floe to another in Canada's remote Northwest Territories perfectly captures the beauty, drama, and unending struggle in the animal world. It also echo's one of the greatest photos of all time, Henri Cartier-Bresson's picture of man jumping toward a puddle behind the Gare St. Lazare.
  74. 146. Jackie Robinson, Unstoppable Force: Photo by Ralph Morse, 1951 In the fall of 1955, when Ralph Morse took this extraordinary photo of Jackie Robinson in action against the Yankees in the World Series -- dancing off of third base, rattling the pitcher -- it had been more than eight years since Brooklyn's No. 42 had integrated major league baseball. Morse brilliantly captures Jackie Robinson, both the ballplayer and civil rights legend. As Robinson rounds third base, we see the fierce competitor whose risk-taking approach not only helped the Brooklyn Dodgers win the 1955 World Series but changed the way the game is played. We also see the all-important line, a visual reminder of the color barrier he so bravely crossed -- enduring taunts, racial slurs, even death threats -- to be come the first African American player in the major leagues.
  75. 148. Audrey and Grace: Photo by Allan Grant, 1956 Backstage at the Academy Awards, two past Best Actress winners, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, await their turns to present. That Allan Grant could catch both supremely elegant, stylish icons together in a moment may have been a stroke of luck (Hepburn and Kelly never did work together, and very soon after this photo was taken the latter left Hollywood to become Monaco's princess). But Grant's use of composition and lighting -- with the two women parallel and glowing in profile -- is nothing short of masterful.
  76. 150. Ingenue Audrey: Photo by Mark Shaw, 1954 Charming ,  sophisticated, chic : All these words have been used innumerable times to describe the particular allure of Audrey Hepburn. But early in her career, photographer Mark Shaw captured the young actress, fresh off  Roman Holiday , wearing only a white button-down shirt and giving him a saucy look. His photo adds a new adjective to the book on Audrey:  sexy .
  77. 151. end cast The 75 Best LIFE Photos i mages credit   www.           Music BOND - Allegretto               created   o.e. thanks for watching