LIFE photographer Martha Holmes working on assignment. (Photo by George Cardoza/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

LIFE photographer Martha Holmes working on assignment. (Photo by George Cardoza/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Martha Holmes (1923-2006) was one of those photographers who strove to make her subjects took good. She would find their best side, shadow their thinning hair or even touch up the picture afterwards. “If they know you’re on their side—and I am—that helps,” Holmes once said. A Kentucky native and elegant dresser, when she began her career at the Louisville Courier-Journal she always wore “a frilly little dress” on Sundays. One weekend, a fire broke out, and working that story got her to switch to culottes. She eventually donned slacks, but in any outfit, Holmes remained her unique, warm, courtly self.

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

A view of picket lines in front of Paramount Studios during a set directors strike. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

A view of picket lines in front of Paramount Studios during a set directors strike. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Painter Jackson Pollock smoking as he squats on floor, applying paint to canvas in Long Island studio. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Painter Jackson Pollock smoking as he squats on floor, applying paint to canvas in Long Island studio. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Dean of Santas giving lecture at the Waldorf Santa Convention. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Dean of Santas giving lecture at the Waldorf Santa Convention. (Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

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