Portrait of Mark Kauffman with his camera. (Photo by Hank Walker/The LIFE Images Collection)
Of all the possible images of Eleanor Roosevelt that inundated LIFE’s editors in 1939, they chose one for the cover by a 16-year-old high school student named Mark Kauffman (1921-1994), and thus began a decades-long relationship with the magazine. Once out of school, he worked as a technician in LIFE’S Los Angeles photo lab. When the bureau’s established photographers left to cover World War II, they effectively bequeathed Kauffman his pick of Hollywood assignments. After 10 months, he signed on with the Marines as a combat photographer before returning as a staffer in 1945. Because Kauffman devised ways to bring sports photography closer to the reader—through technical innovations and skilled use of panning—Henry Luce tapped him to help start Sports Illustrated in 1954 and selected one of his baseball photos for the publication’s first cover.