Walter Sanders on assignment near Marburg University in Germany just after WWII. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Images Collection)

Walter Sanders on assignment near Marburg University in Germany just after WWII. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Images Collection)

Untold numbers of fathers have bought their first camera to take a picture of their baby daughter. But Walter Sanders  (1897-1985) was probably the first one who did that and went on to become a LIFE photographer. After studying history and economics in his native Germany, Sanders became fascinated with the camera, and by the mid-1930s had forged a reputation throughout Europe for his storytelling photography. He had also developed a reputation among the Nazis as a man involved in “non-Aryan” activities, so in 1937 he came to the U.S., and he started shooting for LIFE that year. Sanders had a long career with the magazine, which was properly summed up by his colleague Carl Mydans: “In the age of the growth and explosion of photojournalism, Walt Sanders was a giant. He brought with him to the new magazine LIFE the skills he had developed as a young man in Germany and, in sharing them with all of us, played a major role in the making of LIFE magazine.” 

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

Rear view of actress Betty Grable modeling a shirt. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Rear view of actress Betty Grable modeling a shirt. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Two people sitting in hospital where St. Catherine nursed people with the plague. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Two people sitting in hospital where St. Catherine nursed people with the plague. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Wife and daughter of a US soldier sitting in a first class dining car looking out at German "expels" travelling in boxcars. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Wife and daughter of a US soldier sitting in a first class dining car looking out at German “expels” travelling in boxcars. (Photo by Walter Sanders/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

An elderly Chinese man ice skating. (Photo by Jack Wilkes/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Jack Wilkes

Steve McQueen aims a pistol in his living room. (Photo by Loomis Dean/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Loomis Dean

Crowd of 10,000 at America First Committee rally. (Photo by William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

William C. Shrout

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

American destroyer USS Vesole escorting the Russian freighter Polzunov into international waters. The freighter is loaded with nuclear missiles and related equipment bound for the Soviet Union after being removed from Cuban soil, bringing an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Carl Mydans

American soldiers of 7th Marines landing on the beaches of Cape Batangan during the Vietnam War. (Photo by Paul Schutzer/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Paul Schutzer