George Silk with his camera. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

George Silk with his camera. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

“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.

Children in Halloween costumes running together. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Children in Halloween costumes running together. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

United States track athletes taking hurdles at the men's 1960 United States Olympic trials for track and field. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

United States track athletes taking hurdles at the men’s 1960 United States Olympic trials for track and field. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

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

The sailboat Nefertiti competing in the America’s Cup trials. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

A pilot looking out the window of a plane. (Photo by Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bill Ray

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

Senator John F. Kennedy playing peek-a-boo with his daughter Caroline in her crib. (Photo by Edward Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Edward Clark

Place de la Concorde. (Photo by Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Gordon Parks

Writer Niven Busch lying on sofa with newspaper over his face as he takes nap from screenwriting. (Photo by Paul Dorsey/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Paul Dorsey

Representatives of 14 NATO nations (including US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (fore, far R) signing a pact admitting Germany as 15th member in a ceremony at Palais de Chaillot. (Photo by Frank Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Frank Scherschel