As a boy, Allan Grant dreamed of becoming an aeronautical engineer. When his career path took a different route, the flying industry’s loss became the photography world’s and, specifically, LIFE magazine’s gain. If any photographer ever captured the lighter side of show business, it was the confident New York native who, as a teen, traded a model airplane that he’d built for a pocket Kodak camera, and never looked back. A LIFE staffer from 1947 until the late 1960s, Grant covered the entertainment world from the inside. His unique blend of cool appraisal and obvious affection for (most) of his subjects went a long way toward making the stars seem quirky and approachable. While particularly known for his winning portraits of showbiz royalty when called upon Grant was a perfectly adept chronicler of harder news. His portraits of Marina Oswald made shortly after her husband shot President Kennedy, for example, captured a personal side of that epic, era-defining story that few other media outlets could touch. His pictures of atomic tests and, especially, their aftermath in the early 1950s managed to add a human dimension to an issue that frequently felt, by turns, too clinical and too terrifying for the average citizen to grasp. But it was, in the end, Grant’s portraits of the stars of the Fifties and Sixties that showed his real ability to get close to people, and capture something genuine, if fleeting, about the rich and famous in their unguarded moments. Grant died in 2008.
"Staff photographers, freelancers, and everyone who owned a camera were all hoping to get published in LIFE. It was like getting one week of fame instead of the 15 minutes Andy Warhol talked about."