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Alfred Eisenstaedt
In London, 1932 (age 34)
In London, 1932 (age 34)
Born (1898-12-06)December 6, 1898
Dirschau (Tczew), West Prussia, Imperial Germany
Died August 24, 1995(1995-08-24) (aged 96)
Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts
Occupation Photojournalism

Alfred Eisenstaedt (December 6, 1898[1] – August 24, 1995) was a German-born American photographer and photojournalist. He is best known for his photograph of the V-J Day celebration [2] and for his candid photographs, frequently made using a 35mm Leica camera.

Early life

Eisenstaedt was born in Dirschau (Tczew) in West Prussia, Imperial Germany in 1898. His family moved to Berlin in 1906. Eisenstaedt was fascinated by photography from his youth and began taking pictures at age 14 when he was given his first camera, an Eastman Kodak Folding Camera with roll film. Eisenstaedt served in the German Army's artillery during World War I, and was wounded in 1918. While working as a belt and button salesman in the 1920s in Weimar Germany, Eisenstaedt began taking photographs as a freelancer for the Pacific and Atlantic Photos' Berlin office in 1928. The office was taken over by Associated Press in 1931.

Professional photographer

Eisenstaedt successfully became a full-time photographer in 1929. Four years later he photographed a meeting between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy. Other notable, early pictures by Eisenstaedt include his depiction of a waiter at the ice rink of the Grand Hotel in St. Moritz in 1932 and Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933. Although initially friendly, Goebbels scowled for the photograph when he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish.[3]

Because of oppression in Hitler's Nazi Germany, Eisenstaedt emigrated to the United States in 1935 where he lived in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York, for the rest of his life.[4] He worked as a staff photographer for Life magazine from 1936 to 1972. His photos of news events and celebrities, such as Dagmar, Sophia Loren and Ernest Hemingway, appeared on 90 Life covers.[2] Eisenstaedt was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989 by President George Bush in a ceremony on the White House lawn.[5]

Martha's Vineyard

Alfred Eisenstaedt photographing the Clinton family on Martha's Vineyard.

Eisenstaedt, known as "Eisie" to his close friends, enjoyed his annual August vacations on the island of Martha's Vineyard for 50 years. During these summers, he would conduct photographic experiments, working with different lenses, filters, and prisms in natural light. Eisenstaedt was fond of Martha's Vineyard's photogenic lighthouses, and was the focus of lighthouse fundraisers organized by Vineyard Environmental Research, Institute (VERI).

Two years before his death, Eisenstaedt photographed President Bill Clinton with wife, Hillary, and daughter, Chelsea. The photograph session took place at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard, and was documented by this photograph published in People magazine on September 13, 1993.[6]

Eisenstaedt died in his bed at midnight at his beloved Menemsha Inn cottage known as the "Pilot House" at age 96,[2] in the company of his sister-in-law, Lucille Kaye (LuLu),[7] and friend, William E. Marks.[8]

Notable Eisenstaedt photos

V-J day in Times Square

Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph is of an American sailor kissing a young woman on August 14, 1945 in Times Square. He took this famous photograph using a Leica IIIa. (The photograph is known under various names: V-J Day in Times Square, V-Day, etc.[9]) Because Eisenstaedt was photographing rapidly changing events during the V-J Day celebrations, he stated that he didn't get a chance to obtain names and details, which has encouraged a number of mutually incompatible claims to the identity of the subjects.

Portraits of Sophia Loren

The portraits of Sophia Loren have been described as conveying mischievousness, dignity, and love on the part of both Eisenstaedt and Loren.

Ice Skating Waiter, St. Moritz

1932 photograph depicts a waiter at the ice rink of the Grand Hotel. "I did one smashing picture," Eisenstaedt has written, "of the skating headwaiter. To be sure the picture was sharp, I put a chair on the ice and asked the waiter to skate by it. I had a Miroflex camera and focused on the chair."

Children follow the Drum Major at the University of Michigan, 1950


Since 1999, the Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards for Magazine Photography have been administered by the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.[10]


  1. Zone, Ray (2007). "Alfred Eisenstaedt". 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Alfred Eisenstaedt, Photographer of the Defining Moment, Is Dead at 96". New York Times. 1995-08-25. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Alfred Eisenstaedt, the German photographer whose pioneering images for Life magazine helped define American photojournalism, died on Wednesday while vacationing on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. He was 96 and lived in Manhattan." 
  3. Eisenstaedt's photograph of Goebbels.[dead link]
  4. Grundberg, Andy. "Alfred Eisenstaedt, 90: The Image of Activity", The New York Times, November 12, 1998. Accessed September 25, 2007. "Until a year ago, he would walk daily from his home in Jackson Heights, Queens, to his office on the Avenue of the Americas and 51st Street, he said."
  5. Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts
  9. V-J day in Times Square: The Photo Book (London: Phaidon, 2000; ISBN 0-7148-3937-X), p.134. V–Day: Twentieth Century Photography: Museum Ludwig Cologne (Cologne: Taschen, 2005; ISBN 3-8228-4083-1), pp. 148–9.
  10. Alfred Eisenstaedt Awards Established at Columbia, 11 November 1997

External links

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