Portrait of Allan Grant with his camera. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation).

Portrait of Allan Grant with his camera. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

If Norman Rockwell had used a camera instead of a paintbrush, his artistry might have looked something like Allan Grant’s. Grant (1919-2008) specialized in capturing the lighthearted side of American life, and his work often appeared in LIFE’S Speaking of Pictures section, a repository for humorous or otherwise striking images. If his reputation was as the man responsible for laughs, he also made pictures that were anything but funny: a bewildered Marina Oswald shortly after her husband had shot President Kennedy, a grim Marilyn Monroe just before she died. Grant had aspired to be an aeronautical engineer—he loved photographing aircraft—but never regretted his choices, nor where he wound up. “Staff photographers, freelancers and everyone who owned a camera,” he said, “were all hoping to get published in LIFE. It was like getting one week of fame instead of the 15 minutes Andy Warhol talked about.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Former Confederate soldier John Salling sitting on a porch with some friends. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation).

Former Confederate soldier John Salling sitting on a porch with some friends. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Acrobat and actor, Russ Tamblyn doing a flip on the sidewalk with starlet Venetia Stevenson. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation).

Acrobat and actor, Russ Tamblyn doing a flip on the sidewalk with starlet Venetia Stevenson. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Bikini clad actress Jayne Mansfield posing with shapely bottles floating around her in her pool. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation).

Bikini clad actress Jayne Mansfield posing with shapely bottles floating around her in her pool. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

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

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

Nina Leen

A tiger setting out at dusk for night of hunting in Kanha National Park, Central India(Photo by Stan Wayman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Stan Wayman

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

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

Bill Eppridge

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

Yale Joel