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

Elvis and Priscilla leave the house he and his family occupied in Bad Nauheim, Germany. (Photo by James Whitmore/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

James Whitmore

A camel caravan in front of the pyramids of Khefren and Cheops, also called the Great Pyramid. (Photo by Eliot Elisofon/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Eliot Elisofon

Writer Niven Busch lying on sofa with newspaper over his face as he takes nap from screenwriting. (Photo by Paul Dorsey/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Paul Dorsey

US Army nurses arriving in the Middle East. (Photo by Bob Landry/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bob Landry

An Arabian showing off his head-dress while taking a drink of water. (Photo by James Jarche/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

James Jarche

Charlie Chaplin on the set of his film "Limelight," 1952. (Photo by W. Eugene Smith/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

W. Eugene Smith