Alfred Eisenstaedt


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Alfred Eisenstaedt was a full-time photographer since 1929, when he was hired by the Associated Press in Germany. Within a year, he was described as a “photographer extraordinaire.” Having worked at a time when the world was in transition: a state of unsustainable peace was slowly tipping towards a relapse into conflict. In 1933, Alfred Eisenstaedt captured images of the meetings between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy, a photograph that only showed the world a bit of a preview of what was to come.

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His other notable photograph was the picture of Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933. The photograph remains a monumental capture, with Joseph Goebbels frowning at Eisenstaedt when it was shot. The oppression that prevailed in Hitler’s regime during the Third Reich in Nazi Germany, Eisenstaedt’s family caught on quite early that the Nazis were after the German Jewish population, and decided to leave to the US. In 1935, Eisenstaedt and his family were in New York, and he had settled there. Noteworthy for his photography since the time he set foot in the USA, he was already lapped up by Life Magazine, when the founder of Time, Henry Luce, bought Life Magazine. In this capacity, Eisenstaedt shared space with Margaret Bourke-White and Robert Capa. He held this position from 1936 until 1972, capturing a range of photographs of news, events and celebrities. By 1972, he had photographed over 2500 stories and had over 90 of his photographs on the cover of Life Magazine.

In later years, Eisenstaedt worked for Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Town and Country and other prominent publications across the world. He was an enthusiast for the small 35 mm film cameras, especially the Leica. He preferred the hand-held device owing to the speed, agility and flexibility it lent him. He used natural light, and enjoyed capturing candid photographs and photographs of people in natural poses and styles. After 35 years in Europe and capturing conflict related photographs, he began changing his style to focusing only on informal photographs, which led him to tell stories as they were, rather than orchestrate them. His repertoire includes pictures of Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, the Clinton Family at Martha’s Vineyard and Ernest Hemingway in his boat – who, story goes, was so furious about Eisenstaedt’s photograph of him, that he tore his own shirt in a rage and threatened to throw Eisenstaedt overboard.

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