Grey Villet with his camera at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection)

Grey Villet with his camera at the Democratic National Convention. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Images Collection)

Grey Villet (1927-2000) was raised in the market center of a sheep-farming district in South Africa, and while enrolled at the University of Cape Town, he took up photography “mainly for an excuse to stop loafing.” Then off to England, where for a while he stood outside the Registry Office in London snapping pictures of newlyweds as they emerged, in hopes they would order prints. Villet, of course, would evolve into an exceptional photographer, one with a yen to get something “as real as you can get it… I hate to set up stuff. I’d much rather let people act as they are, and reflect that. If I’ve got the patience, that’ll give me a better picture than anything I can dream up.” Villet also shunned elaborate lighting arrangements because “people do not behave as naturally.” What must accompany this approach is an instinct for what makes a good picture, and his was razor sharp. Bill Eppridge summed up Villet nicely: “I liked his ability to take an idea and turn it into a candid photograph. It’s that type of work that I have always respected.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Old woman patient at the St. Louis Chronic hospital. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Old woman patient at the St. Louis Chronic hospital. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Rebel leader Fidel Castro being cheered by a village crowd on his victorious march to Havana. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Rebel leader Fidel Castro being cheered by a village crowd on his victorious march to Havana. (Photo by Grey Villet/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Girls of the Children's School of Modern Dancing, rehearsing on the beach. (Photo by Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Lisa Larsen

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

Gordon Parks

Lone house. (Photo by Dimitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Dimitri Kessel

Weathered tree stump in desert near Mentone, Texas. (Photo by Vernon Merritt/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Vernon Merritt

Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi reading next to a spinning wheel at home. (Photo by Margaret Bourke-White/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Margaret Bourke-White

Propeller turbulence photographed in stroboscopic light as water passes the torpedo. (Photo by Al Fenn/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Al Fenn