Horace Bristol (1908-1997) always called himself a photojournalist, rather than a photographer. Indeed, in the ’30s, when he was associated with the f/64 group, which included Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, the latter said Bristol’s approach was that of an artisan rather than an artist. Bristol agreed; he wasn’t interested in stately tripod work—he wanted to tell a story. After seeing Dorothea Lange’s pictures of migrant workers, Bristol, who was on staff at LIFE during 1937 to 1938, pushed the topic at the magazine. Finding no interest, he persuaded John Steinbeck to work with him as a captionist for a book on the migrants’ plight. After two months, Steinbeck begged off, saying there surely was a book to be made, but he saw it as a novel; Bristol later said that Steinbeck never mentioned his part in the birth of The Grapes of Wrath. Bristol went on to make an important patriotic contribution with his robust images of sailors during World War II.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers