LIFE debuted in 1936 with four staff photographers—Margaret Bourke-White, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Peter Stackpole and Thomas McAvoy—all now regarded as masters. A newspaper veteran before joining the magazine, McAvoy (1905-1966) specialized in candid news shots. He was nearly alone in his approach, as the uncontrived portrait was then revolutionary. McAvoy was the complete pictorial chronicler of Franklin D. Roosevelt; one series of natural shots so unnerved the President that the White House barred further unposed pictures. McAvoy took the first photo of the Senate in session, prompting a rule banning candid Senate shots. The conventions of journalism that restrain photographers today did not hold McAvoy back. He once hired a limousine and improvised a pass to sneak into a high-security cold-war diplomatic reception. He would employ all kinds of trickery—disguises, teeny cameras snapped discreetly—to get an honest picture.
—Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers