Alfred Eisenstaedt


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German-born US photographer, who did much to develop the art of photojournalism, especially during his long association with Life magazine.

Eisenstaedt was born in Dirschau, West Prussia (now Poland), into a prosperous family: his father owned a department store. They moved to Berlin in 1906, and in 1916 Eisenstaedt was drafted into the German army. He was badly wounded in both legs and invalided for the duration. Afterwards, with the family caught in the economic upheaval, Eisenstaedt took a job selling belts and buttons. Meanwhile, he became increasingly absorbed in his hobby: photography. He learned how to develop and enlarge his own pictures and began to realize the enormous potential of the camera. He sold his first picture in 1927, to a magazine, and by 1929 he was a full-time freelance. Working for Associated Press and other agencies, Eisenstaedt undertook a wide range of assignments. Influenced by the innovative German photojournalists of the 1920s, and using the newly introduced compact Leica camera, he took pictures unobtrusively and quickly ‘to find and catch the storytelling moments’, as he said in The Eye of Eisenstaedt (1969).

The early 1930s produced some of Eisenstaedt's most memorable pictures, including Goebbels at the 1933 League of Nations Assembly, glaring malevolently at the camera. He also made an extensive documentary record of Haile Selassie's Ethiopia just before the Italian invasion in 1935. In the same year, Eisenstaedt left Germany for the USA and in 1936 joined the staff of the recently launched Life magazine. Over the years, his work filled its pages and often featured on the cover. His portraits of such people as Albert Einstein, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, and Marilyn Monroe became known to worldwide audiences.

Subjects: Art — Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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