John Loengard was born in New York City in 1934. He was a promising photographer on the Harvard Crimson in 1956, when Life magazine asked him to photograph a freighter run aground on Cape Cod. The photographs never ran, but the assignment kicked off Loengard's long association with the magazine.
After graduation, Loengard freelanced for five years before joining the Life magazine staff as a photographer in 1961. Many of his pictures taken for Life, including his photographic essays on "The Shakers" and "Georgia O'Keeffe," are now considered classics.
Loengard became picture editor of the ten semi-annual Life Special Reports when Life magazine suspended weekly publication in 1972. He was also the picture editor of People magazine, during its conception in 1973 and the first three months of its publication in 1974. Loengard was instrumental in the rebirth of Life as a monthly magazine in 1978 and was Life's picture editor until 1987. Under his direction in 1986 Life won the first award for "Excellence in Photography" ever given by the American Society of Magazine Editors . Loengard continued as a contributing photographer to Life until 2000. In 2004 he was the fifth person to receive the coveted Henry R. Luce "Lifetime Achievement Award" from Time Inc. Since 1987 he has been the author of eight books and taught at The International Center for Photography, the New School for Social Research (both in New York City) and at workshops around the country. In 2005, American Photo magazine identified Loengard as "One of the 100 most influential people in photography."