We celebrate and remember Alfred Eisenstaedt on the 112th anniversary of his birth. We were privileged to have first met Eisie in 1986, and he inspired and informed our path as gallerists specializing in photojournalism.
Renowned as the father of modern photojournalism, Alfred Eisenstaedt’s career as a preeminent photojournalist spanned eight decades. Born in West Prussia on December 6, 1898, “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 one of his specialties, and in the process he accumulated many little-known secrets about his subjects.
“V-J Day, Times Square, 1945”, in which a sailor, elated because the war is over, kisses a nurse amidst a New York crowd, will perhaps always be Alfred Eisenstaedt’s signature photograph. Acclaimed as one of the Ten Greatest Images of Photojournalism, it reflects “Eisie’s” keen sense of spontaneity. Many books have been written about Eisenstaedt and his career; and he authored several books including: People, Witness To Our Time, Eisenstaedt On Eisenstaedt, and Remembrances. It is unlikely that anyone could have lived during the last 50 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.
Accolades continued after his death. The Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University inaugurated the Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Photography. The City of New York renamed Grand Street “Alfred Eisenstaedt Place” for the occasion of a retrospective exhibition organized by Sidney S. Monroe in 1998/1999. And in December, 1999 the on-line magazine Digital Journalist named Eisenstaedt “The Photojournalist of the Century”. The career of this legendary photographer was celebrated with the exhibition “The Eye of Eisenstaedt” at Monroe Gallery July 7 – October 1, 2006.
Alfred Eisenstaedt passed away on August 25, 1995 - just 11 days after the 50th anniversary of his iconic photography "VJ-Day in Times Square". His obituary in The New York Times was titled "Alfred Eisenstaedt, Photographer of the Defining Moment, Is Dead at 96".
Related: Alfred Eisenstaedt Master Photographer, 1983 BBC series on YouTube
New Yorker Magazine: Photo Booth: Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Century in Photographs