Portrait of Alfred Eisenstaedt on assignment in Kenya, 1966. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Portrait of Alfred Eisenstaedt on assignment in Kenya, 1966. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

For Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995), the thing that was always there, within him, prompting and pointing the way, was his undying curiosity, which was tethered to his photographer’s eye: “I see pictures all the time. I could stay for hours and watch a raindrop.” Eisenstaedt never lost his childlike interest in things and people, in what made them what they were. He would put his subjects at ease, then get up close and take a few pictures—he didn’t need roll after roll—then it was on to the next person, the next happening, tirelessly pursuing the heart of the matter that he saw so easily and wanted very much for us to see, too.

An American sailor kissing a white-uniformed nurse in Times Square to celebrate the victory over Japan in 1945. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

An American sailor kissing a white-uniformed nurse in Times Square to celebrate the victory over Japan in 1945.

Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

“There were thousands of people milling around, in side streets and everywhere. Everybody was kissing each other … And there was also a Navy man running, grabbing anybody, you know, kissing. I ran ahead of him because I had Leica cameras around my neck, focused from 10 feet to infinity. You only had to shoot… I didn’t even know what was going on, until he grabbed something in white. And I stood there, and they kissed. And I snapped five times.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

LIFE magazine cover published January 23, 1939 with movie star Bette Davis. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

LIFE magazine cover published January 23, 1939 with movie star Bette Davis. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Student nurses lining the railings of a stairwell at Roosevelt hospital. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Student nurses lining the railings of a stairwell at Roosevelt hospital. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Ballerinas at George Balanchine's American School of Ballet gathered around accompanist during rehearsal. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Ballerinas at George Balanchine’s American School of Ballet gathered around accompanist during rehearsal. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Motorcyclists racing 75 miles cross country through Mojave Desert. (Photo by Bill Eppridge/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bill Eppridge

LIFE photographer Philippe Halsman poised w. camera in serious portrait. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Philippe Halsman

Technician at Washington State University measuring lumps of cow fetuses. (Photo by Oscar Fritz Goro/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Fritz Goro

American sailors on shore leave sit in a pedicab while their buddy takes their picture, Shanghai, China, December 1945. (Photo by George Lacks/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

George Lacks

African-American student Virginius B. Thornton receiving tolerance training before picketing. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Howard Sochurek

Gutted trolley car amid Hiroshima ruins a few months after the dropping of the atomic bomb by the US, bringing a swift Japanese surrender and an end to WWII. (Photo by Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bernard Hoffman