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

Models lying on beach to display bathing suits. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Nina Leen

Vice President Richard Nixon sitting in the back seat of a dimly lit limousine after a day taking over duties for President Eisenhower, during his hospitalization from a stroke. (Photo by Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Hank Walker

Painter Henri Matisse using a bamboo pole tipped with charcoal to draw a half-scale figure of St. Dominic. (Photo by Robert Capa/The LIFE Images Collection) Photographer

Robert Capa

Painter Jackson Pollock smoking as he squats on floor, applying paint to canvas in Long Island studio. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Martha Holmes

A view of Adolf Hitler's burning mountain house, "The Eagle's Nest." (Photo by David E. Scherman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

David E. Scherman

Prisoners at San Quentin weightlifting in prison yard during recreation period. (Photo by Charles Steinheimer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Charles Steinheimer