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

Sassy, plump baby chicks heralding the spring. (Photo by Wallace Kirkland/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Wallace Kirkland

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

Place de la Concorde. (Photo by Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Gordon Parks

Babies crawling during the 8th annual Diaper Service Derby sponsored by the National Institute of Diaper Services. (Photo by Cornell Capa/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Cornell Capa

Bikini clad actress Jayne Mansfield posing with shapely bottles floating around her in her pool. (Photo by Allan Grant/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation). Photographer

Allan Grant

The watermelon stripe baby Tapir stretching out beside the older family member at the Brookfield zoo.(Photo by Francis Miller/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Francis Miller