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

Representatives of 14 NATO nations (including US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles (fore, far R) signing a pact admitting Germany as 15th member in a ceremony at Palais de Chaillot. (Photo by Frank Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Frank Scherschel

Washington, D.C. skyline in 1901. (Photo by Charles Phillips/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Charles Philips

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

Dimitri Kessel

Children in blitzed north of England eating meal from bread and Lease Lend cheese. (Photo by Hans Wild/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Hans Wild

Vice President Richard Nixon sitting in the back seat of a dimly lit limousine after a day taking over duties for President Eisenhower, during his hospitalization from a stroke. (Photo by Hank Walker/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Hank Walker

Members of 1st Marine Division carrying their wounded during the Vietnam War, 1966. (Photo by Larry Burrows/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Larry Burrows