Thursday, December 5, 2013

Happy Birthday, Alfred Eisenstaedt



In a photograph taken by LIFE colleague Bill Shrout, Alfred Eisenstaedt kisses an unidentified woman reporter in Times Square on VJ Day, August 14, 1945 — a powerful visual echo (in retrospect) of the now-iconic, era-defining "sailor kissing a nurse" picture that Eisenstaedt himself shot that very same day via vintageeveryday


Born on December 6, 1898 in West Prussia, Alfred Eisenstaedt received an Eastman Kodak Folding Camera when he was 14. Renowned as the father of modern photojournalism, Eisenstaedt’s career as a preeminent photojournalist spanned eight decades. “Eisie”, as he preferred to be called, began taking photographs in Germany in 1914. As a pioneer in his field, “Eisie” had few rules to follow.

Diminutive in stature, he worked with minimal equipment and was known for an aggressive yet invisible style of working. Regarded as an innovator of available light photography, Eisenstaedt dispensed with flash photography early on in order to preserve the ambiance of natural lighting.

He photographed throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East until he came to LIFE magazine in 1936. As one of the four original staff photographers for LIFE, “Eisie” covered over 2,500 assignments and created 86 covers for the magazine. Acknowledged as one of the most published photojournalists in the world, he took photographs at the first meeting of Hitler and Mussolini, of Albert Einstein teaching at Princeton, Churchill’s campaign and re-election, children at a puppet theater in Paris, Marilyn Monroe at home, and hundreds of other significant people and events around the world. He was an editor’s dream, and his work had what became known as “Eisie’s eye”. Portrait assignments became his specialty, and in the process he accumulated many little-known secrets about his subjects.

It is unlikely that anyone could have lived during the last 60 years without having been exposed to the photographs of Alfred Eisenstaedt. “Eisie” worked almost ceaselessly until his death in 1995, even photographing President Clinton and Family in 1993.

Alfred Eisenstaedt possessed the unique talent to capture a story in a single, tell-all moment. The photographer’s job, he once wrote, “is to find and catch the storytelling moment.” “Eisie” received awards and recognition far too numerous to list. His photographs have been exhibited in prestigious museums and galleries throughout the world and are in the permanent collections of many important art institutions. Several of his acclaimed photographs are featured in "The Great LIFE Photographers" exhibition at Monroe Gallery of Photography, Santa Fe, through Januray 26, 2014.

Related:

This Week in Photography History: A Look Back at Alfred Eisendstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt's 112th Birthday