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)

More Like This

Imperial Dam in California. (Photo by Horace Bristol/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Horace Bristol

Students Steve Poster and Jessalyn Gray (fore C) talking at side of taxi while crowd of White Supremacists taunt them. (Photo by Joe Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Joe Scherschel

Senator John F. Kennedy playing peek-a-boo with his daughter Caroline in her crib. (Photo by Edward Clark/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Edward Clark

African-American student Virginius B. Thornton receiving tolerance training before picketing. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Howard Sochurek

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

American sailors on shore leave sit in a pedicab while their buddy takes their picture, Shanghai, China, December 1945. (Photo by George Lacks/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

George Lacks