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

State trooper holding burnt cap of a guard taken hostage during riot at Attica State prison. (Photo by John Shearer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

John Shearer

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

Fritz Goro

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

Harvard students in lecture hall. (Photo by Arthur Griffin/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Arthur Griffin

The kitchen in President Harry Truman's family home. (Photo by Henry Groskinsky/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Henry Groskinsky

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