“I left school to punch cows and I left them to take pictures,” said the New Zealand-born George Silk (1916-2004). He joined the Australian Army as a photographer in World War II. Rommel’s troops in North Africa captured him, but he escaped. While in New Guinea (following the Kokoda Trail for 700 miles on foot), Silk shot a picture of a blinded soldier that the Aussies tried to suppress; LIFE, however, printed it. He finished the war as a LIFE photographer in the Pacific. Silk said he felt ashamed not to be fighting, “so I drove myself to show the folks at home, as best I could, how the soldiers lived and died.” His empathy came across whether shooting fishermen or athletes. A boatsman himself, he became the magazine’s expert on sailing. And on cold weather: Silk visited the North Pole twice and once shot the America’s Cup races atop a 90-foot mast.
Silk modified a “strip” camera for such as the track meet above. But its development took a different route. As Silk told American Photographer, he “took the camera home and had my kids run by it and then under a blanket in the garage, I developed a piece of film this long (arms fully spread) and when I held it up and looked at the spooky image I said, ‘That’s Halloween!’ [The holiday was coming up shortly.] So I got color film and got the kids… to put on their costumes and run by the camera.”
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers