Myron Davis riding a burro while covering a story about a US troop train. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Myron Davis riding a burro while covering a story about a US troop train. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

At age 11, Myron Davis (1919-2010) asked his mother how photographs were made. As it turned out, she had done some photographic printing and explained the process to him. Then, Davis recalled: ”I went to the drugstore, got the chemicals… put a blanket over the bathroom window, made a little red light out of some red cellophane, got some old pots and pans, and ran a roll through. I was bit from there on.” His first World War II assignment for LIFE landed him on a beach in New Guinea. There was a mutilated body on a stretcher. “I was so shocked I turned away and said. ‘I cannot photograph this.’ Then I thought, ‘No, this is war. I’ve got to try to deal with this.’” He eventually formed a strategy: “I’d learned the smart thing, even journalistically in a way, was to get what you could and get back safely with your film.” Davis modestly—and wrongly—insisted that he “never really captured the essence of war because most of the time when the bullets were going by, I was trying to squeeze my whole body into that little tin helmet.”

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

LIFE magazine cover published June 7, 1943. Featuring Marine ace pilot Captain Joe Foss wearing his Medal of Honor. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

LIFE magazine cover published June 7, 1943. Featuring Marine ace pilot Captain Joe Foss wearing his Medal of Honor. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

US soldiers standing guard on a troop train. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

US soldiers standing guard on a troop train. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

American soldier descending the steps of an LCI towards body of an Australian serviceman killed by a Japanese bomb. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

American soldier descending the steps of an LCI towards body of an Australian serviceman killed by a Japanese bomb. (Photo by Myron Davis/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

Lone house. (Photo by Dimitri Kessel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Dimitri Kessel

MIT student using a MAC computer for project study of artificial intelligence. (Photo by Leonard Mccombe/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Leonard McCombe

Street scene during business hours. (Photo by Peter Stackpole/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Peter Stackpole

US Army nurses arriving in the Middle East. (Photo by Bob Landry/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bob Landry

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

Elvis and Priscilla leave the house he and his family occupied in Bad Nauheim, Germany. (Photo by James Whitmore/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

James Whitmore