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

Elvis and Priscilla leave the house he and his family occupied in Bad Nauheim, Germany. (Photo by James Whitmore/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

James Whitmore

A view of Adolf Hitler's burning mountain house, "The Eagle's Nest." (Photo by David E. Scherman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

David E. Scherman

Tarsiers,an animal native to Indonesia and Philippines, eating a lizard alive. (Photo by Sam Shere/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Sam Shere

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

Margaret Bourke-White

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

Bill Ray

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

Gordon Parks