John Loengard (born 1934) was a promising Harvard Crimson photographer when LIFE asked him to shoot a picture of a freighter grounded off Cape Cod in 1956. The photo never ran, but the assignment kicked off Loengard’s long association with LIFE. He freelanced for a while, then, in 1961, when the editors wanted to infuse an aging staff with new blood, they hired him. Getting natural expressions from the faces of the famous was his forte, though his toughness impressed the soldiers in Vietnam. “One thing that amazed the .. .veterans was his disdain, if not outright contempt, for the nightly dangers which abounded,” one reporter said. “Another was his appetite for a cuisine which to any newcomer was not only inedible but unthinkable. The menu, when other food was scarce, sometimes consisted of dog, lizard and even rats.” Loengard went on to become LIFE’S seventh picture editor. He also helped create the stunningly successful People, and served as its first picture editor.
Hands and faces are his favorite subjects. “If I’m very close in on the face, expression doesn’t exist,” Loengard once said. “The face becomes a landscape of the lakes of the eyes and the hills of the nose.”
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers