In 1931, as a gift on his first visit to Europe, Al Fenn (1912-1995) was given a Leica. By the time he returned to the States, his “heart now belonged to photography.” During Fenn’s 15 years at LIFE, his subjects were diverse, from baby birds to boxers. Fenn’s father was a physics professor and his mother an actress. “It seems quite logical.” he concluded, “that I should be a photographer, which is apparently the genetic result of the mixture of science and art.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Mrs. Margaret Morse Nice lying flat in grass to study nest of baby field sparrows. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Mrs. Margaret Morse Nice lying flat in grass to study nest of baby field sparrows. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Underfed duck struggling in detergent, as part of an experiment that deficiency in an essential dietary component. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Underfed duck struggling in detergent, as part of an experiment that deficiency in an essential dietary component. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Boxer Rocky Marciano (seated R) signing a contract for a fight while Joe Louis (seated L) looks the other way. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Boxer Rocky Marciano (seated R) signing a contract for a fight while Joe Louis (seated L) looks the other way. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Dr. Arnold Gesell (C) studying baby at Yale's child psychology lab. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Herbert Gehr

Place de la Concorde. (Photo by Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Gordon Parks

Rock group The Doors performing at the Fillmore East. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Yale Joel

Crowd of 10,000 at America First Committee rally. (Photo by William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

William C. Shrout

An unidentified woman looks at the tag on one of many paintings in a storage room in the home of financier and art collector Chester Dale, New York, New York, 1938. (Photo by Rex Hardy/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Rex Hardy

People walking along the shore of Hydra, Greece. (Photo by James Burke/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

James Burke