Preston Hart sitting on a cannon overlooking the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Preston Hart sitting on a cannon overlooking the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

“Management said we were the best photographers in the world,” Hart Preston (1910-2009) once said, “but actually I think they looked upon us as very highly skilled clowns.” This Stanford grad, however, considered himself a “photo reporter,” a sort of raconteur with a camera. “They were ‘stories,'” he said. “They had a beginning and a middle and an end, as you would have with written journalism.” He barely survived the malaria he caught in South Africa, and went on to run Time’s Rio de Janeiro news bureau, where he switched to the other side: writing.

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

25-year-old Shah of Iran with visiting American Wendell Willkie during the Shah's stopover on a world tour aboard his plane the Gulliver. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

25-year-old Shah of Iran with visiting American Wendell Willkie during the Shah’s stopover on a world tour aboard his plane the Gulliver. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

American movie producer, artist, and animator Walt Disney and fellow artist and animator Mary Blair sit on a balcony and draw on sketch pads while in South America. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

American movie producer, artist, and animator Walt Disney and fellow artist and animator Mary Blair sit on a balcony and draw on sketch pads while in South America. (Photo by Hart Preston/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Imperial Dam in California. (Photo by Horace Bristol/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Horace Bristol

Rock group The Doors performing at the Fillmore East. (Photo by Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Yale Joel

Gutted trolley car amid Hiroshima ruins a few months after the dropping of the atomic bomb by the US, bringing a swift Japanese surrender and an end to WWII. (Photo by Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bernard Hoffman

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

Artist Georgia O'Keeffe, 80 yr. old pioneer of modern American Art.(Photo by Michael Mauney/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

John Loengard

A rhesus monkey sitting in water up to his chest. (Photo by Hansel Meith/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Hansel Mieth