Eliot Elisofon (1911-1973) took up photography while working his way through Fordham, where he was pre-med but majored in philosophy. After graduating, he forged a successful business in commercial photography, which he gave up to join LIFE. Noting that the camera “says too much,” Elisofon sought “to try to take pictures that are impossible to take.” He carried his camera into danger zones during World War II. Once, leaving North Africa, his plane crashed and burned the trousers right off him. According to war correspondent Ernie Pyle, “Elisofon was afraid like the rest of us. Yet he made himself go right into the teeth of danger. I never knew a more intense worker.” Elisofon’s postwar subjects were quite varied, including everything from culinary still lifes to studies in the mountains of Africa. His friend Gypsy Rose Lee gave him a small piece of African art; he went on to bequeath 80,000 photos of Africa to the Smithsonian.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers