The LIFE magazine archive counts millions of excellent pictures. Oldpics attempted to select the best 50 of them.
LIFE magazine always managed to onboard the best photographers. Starting from the first issue that hit the shelves on November 23, 1936, the continuously surprised the public with their sharp and unforgettable photographs. No surprise, the LIFE magazine was the top illustrated US publication for decades.
LIFE magazine was published weekly from 1936 to 1972. Nonetheless, competitors (TV, mostly) took their readers’ share and forced the glorious publication to switch to a monthly basis. The magazine stood tall from 1978 to 2000.
But we still remember the LIFE magazine! We continue to dig through its archives and find new and new amazing photographs that deserve the fresh publication. This publication covers the LIFE magazine photographs that became an integral part of the photo history. Many of these pictures starred the 100 most important pictures in history.
39-year-old Texas cowboy Clarence Hailey. This image became the best-known cigarette advertisement.
The Beatles in Miami
Photo by John Loengard, 1964.
The Beatles on their famous American Tour. The pool water was quite cold that day, as Ringo’s grimace tells.
Sea of Hats
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1930.
A crowd wearing hats on the streets of New York. Interestingly, Margaret Bourke-White captured this image before the LIFE publication started. It looks like magazine editors took this picture and published it later just for its artistic value.
Photo by Ed Clark, 1958.
John F. Kennedy plays hide-n-seek with his daughter Caroline.
Marines during the Vietnam War. The black soldier reaches out to his wounded, white comrade.
Meeting peace With fire hoses.
Photo by: Charles Moore, 1963.
Fire hoses were used to disperse a peaceful anti-segregation rally in Birmingham, Alabama.
Photo by: Milton Greene, 1952.
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1943.
Another WW2 masterpiece of Eugene Smith. During World War II, hundreds of Japanese were besieged on Saipan’s island and committed mass suicide to avoid Americans’ surrender. When American Marines examined the island, they found a barely alive child in one of the caves. Here’s a story behind this stunning photograph.
Liberation of Buchenwald
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1945.
Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1959. Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Jet Age Man
Photo by Ralph Morse, 1954.
Measurement of the pilot’s anthropological data with special lighting from alternating bands of light and shadow of various thicknesses. That was the key ingredient for the new flight helmet design by the US Air Force.
Jack and Bobby
Photo by Hank Walker, 1960.
John F. Kennedy (still a Senator) with his brother Robert at a hotel during the Democratic convention in Los Angeles.
Into the Light
Photo by: William Eugene Smith, 1946.
Photo by: Mark Shaw, 1954.
25-year-old star Audrey Hepburn while filming Roman Holiday.
Photo by George Silk, 1956.
Swedish high jumper Gunhild Larking at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.
Officer Graham Jackson plays the song “Goin ‘Home” at President Roosevelt’s April 12, 1945 funeral.
Photo by Paul Schutzer, 1961. “Riders of Freedom” called the joint bus trips of black and white activists who protested against the violation of black people’s rights in the southern states of the United States. In 1961, activists rented buses and traveled around the southern states. No surprise, they were repeatedly attacked and arrested by southern whites. During a trip from Montgomery, Alabama, to Jackson, Mississippi, National Guard soldiers were assigned to protect the riders.
Face of Death
Photo by: Ralph Morse, 1943. The head of a Japanese soldier on a tank.
Eyes of Hate
Photo by: Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1933.
The moment when Goebbels (sitting) found that his photographer was a Jew and he stopped smiling. The full story behind Eyes of hate pictures.
Photo by Andreas Feininger, 1951. Portrait of the photographer Dennis Stock.
Photo by Philippe Halsman, 1948. Six hours and 28 throws (water, chair, and three cats). According to the photographer, he and his assistants were wet, dirty, and completely exhausted when the shot was successful. The Dali Atomicus is among the 100 most important pictures in history.
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1948. Rural doctor Ernest Ceriani, the only doctor in the 1200 square miles area. In this photo, Eugene Smith captured a moment after a botched cesarean section that killed a mother and child due to complications. See more pictures and a full story behind the Country Doctor photo.
Photo by W. Eugene Smith, 1952. Charlie Chaplin, 63.
Center of Attention
Photo by: Leonard McCombe, 1956.
Both Sides Now
Photo by: John Shearer, 1971. Muhammad Ali before his fight with Joe Fraser in March 1971. Ali loved to tease opponents. Before the fight with Fraser, he questioned the latter’s masculinity, intellectual abilities, and even his “black skin”.
Before the Wedding
Photo by: Michael Rougier, 1962.
Before Camelot, a Visit to West Virginia
Photo by Hank Walker, 1960. John F. Kennedy speaks during the election campaign in an American town.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn Breathes Free
Photo by Harry Benson. Free-breathing. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in Vermont.
Airplane Over Manhattan.
Photo by: Margaret Bourke-White, 1939.
Photo by: Ralph Morse, 1944. Army medic George Lott, badly wounded in both arms.
A Wolf’s Lonely Leap
Photo by Jim Brandenburg, 1986. The polar wolf fights for survival in northern Canada.
A Leopard’s Kill
Photo by: John Dominis, 1966. Leopard with a victim.
A Child Is Born
Photo by: Lennart Nilsson, 1965. The first-ever picture of a baby in the womb.
A Boy’s Escape
Photo by: Ralph Crane, 1947. This staged photo depicts a boy escaping from an orphanage.
3D Movie Audience
Photo by: J.R. Eyerman, 1952. The first full-length stereo film Bwana Devil.
Author photo: Yousuf Karsh, 1941. Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940-1945 and 1951-1955. Politician, military man, journalist, writer, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Photo by: John Dominis, 1963. Actor Steve McQueen, who starred in The Magnificent Seven.
Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1966. Sophia Loren, in the movie “Italian Marriage.” When this candid snapshot took the cover of LIFE, many criticized the magazine for “going into pornography.” One reader wrote, “Thank God the postman comes at noon when my kids are at school.”