Photographers You Should Study

Alfred Eisenstaedt: Capturing History’s Candid Moments

German born - American Photographer

Alfred Eisenstaedt [1898-1995] was a German-born American photographer, a master of candid photography, and one of the most prolific photojournalists of the 20th century.

Born in Dirschau (now Tczew, Poland), Eisenstaedt began his photography career in the 1920s in Germany before moving to the United States in 1935, where he became one of the original staff photographers for Life magazine.

His ability to capture intimate moments amidst bustling scenes made his work deeply compelling.

Perhaps his most famous photograph is “V-J Day in Times Square” (1945), which depicts a sailor kissing a nurse in celebration of the end of World War II.

Eisenstaedt’s legacy includes over 90 covers for Life magazine and thousands of images that document pivotal moments in history, celebrities, politicians, and everyday life, showcasing his profound impact on photojournalism and candid photography.

Read the full Biography below.


Photography Quotes From Alfred Eisenstaedt

Inspirational photography quote by Dorothea Lange on a black background with a camera lens graphic, shared by Joe Edelman.
📸 Did you know?
Despite his extensive career and having photographed numerous celebrities and historical figures, Eisenstaedt never used a light meter, relying instead on his intuition and experience to gauge the correct exposure.

Videos about Alfred Eisenstaedt

📸 Did you know?
Alfred Eisenstaedt was a self-taught photographer who began taking photos at the age of 14, after receiving his first camera as a gift from his uncle.

Books by Alfred Eisenstaedt

A cover of the book "eisenstaedt: remembrances" featuring a black and white photo by Dorothea Lange of a man in a suit and hat looking slightly surprised or
A book cover titled "eisenstaedt on eisenstaedt," featuring a black-and-white photograph by Dorothea Lange of a man and woman at a social event.
A promotional poster featuring a collage of monochrome celebrity portraits by Dorothea Lange.
A book cover titled "Dorothea Lange's Guide to Photography" with a background of colorful light patterns.
📸 Did you know?
Before emigrating to the United States in 1935, Eisenstaedt was a successful photojournalist in Germany, working for the Associated Press from 1929 until the rise of the Nazi regime made it impossible for him to continue working there due to his Jewish heritage.

Biography of Alfred Eisenstaedt

Early Life and Introduction to Photography

Alfred Eisenstaedt was born on December 6, 1898, in Dirschau (now Tczew), West Prussia (present-day Poland). 

He grew up in a world rapidly changing through technology and innovation, a theme that would profoundly influence his photographic career. 

Eisenstaedt’s interest in photography began as a hobby in his teenage years, sparked by a gift of an Eastman Kodak Folding Camera in 1908.

Early Career and Challenges

Eisenstaedt served in the German Army during World War I, where he was injured. 

After the war, he returned to a Germany that was culturally and economically devastated. In this challenging post-war environment, Eisenstaedt began working as a belt and button salesman while pursuing photography in his free time. 

His career as a professional photographer began in earnest in the late 1920s when his work started to gain attention for its unique perspective and emotional depth.

Rise to Prominence in Europe

Eisenstaedt’s career took a significant turn when he became a full-time photojournalist in 1929. 

His work caught the eye of editors at the newly founded Associated Press office in Germany. Eisenstaedt’s ability to capture candid moments with emotional clarity and narrative depth made him a sought-after photographer in the burgeoning field of photojournalism. 

He photographed a range of subjects, from everyday life in the Weimar Republic to portraits of notable figures of the time.

Emigration and Life in America

With the rise of the Nazi regime, Eisenstaedt, who was Jewish, emigrated to the United States in 1935, where he would make his most enduring contributions to photography. 

He joined the staff of the newly founded Life magazine, where he would work for the next four decades. 

Eisenstaedt’s work for Life magazine defined the golden era of American photojournalism, capturing the complexity of American life and significant historical events through thousands of images.

Iconic Photographs and Signature Style

Eisenstaedt’s style is characterized by its spontaneity, simplicity, and his ability to capture his subjects in revealing moments. 

One of his most famous photographs, “V-J Day in Times Square,” captures an American sailor kissing a nurse on Victory over Japan Day, encapsulating the joy and relief at the end of World War II. 

His portfolio includes candid shots of celebrities, politicians, and artists, as well as poignant snapshots of ordinary people, each telling a story beyond the frame.

Technique and Legacy

Eisenstaedt was known for his minimalistic approach, often using small Leica cameras that allowed him to move freely and blend into his surroundings. 

This technique helped pioneer a more intimate, candid style of photojournalism that influenced generations of photographers. 

Beyond his iconic images, Eisenstaedt’s legacy includes his contributions to developing photojournalism as a powerful form of storytelling, his mentorship of other photographers, and his dedication to capturing the human spirit.

Later Years and Honors

Eisenstaedt continued to photograph and share his passion for photography well into his later years. 

He received numerous awards and honors, including the National Medal of Arts in 1989. 

Eisenstaedt passed away on August 24, 1995, in Martha’s Vineyard, leaving behind a body of work that remains vital in the annals of photography.

Conclusion

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s career spanned nearly eight decades, during which he documented some of the most significant events and figures of the 20th century. 

His work not only provides a vivid chronicle of an era but also celebrates the beauty of the human condition in its myriad forms. 

Through his lens, Eisenstaedt captured moments of joy, sorrow, triumph, and introspection, offering future generations a window into the past. 

His contribution to the art of photojournalism and his profound impact on visual storytelling continue to be celebrated worldwide.


Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Photographer, Author, and Photo Educator.  Follow this link to learn more about Joe or view his portfolio. Please be sure to connect on the social media platforms below.
Back to top button