Eisenstaedt, Alfred

German-American (1898-1995)


Believing that “it’s more important to click with people than click the shutter,” German-American Alfred Eisenstaedt used his affable personality and diminutive stature to earn renown for his masterful candid photographs. A Jew, his family moved to Berlin in 1906, where Eisenstaedt fought in WWI and worked as a button salesman before discovering a penchant for the camera. He sold his first photo in 1927 and – realizing he could actually make a living taking pictures –began working for the Associated Press in 1929. As the Nazis, came to power, Eisenstaedt got close enough to shoot Hitler, Mussolini and Joseph Goebbels (who scowled upon learning the man with the camera was Jewish). But like many others, he fled to the US in 1935 for safety.

From 1936 to 1972, Eisenstaedt worked for Life magazine, producing nearly 2500 photo essays and 90 cover shots, and working with Margaret Bourke-White as the magazine’s first photographers. His most famous image is the iconic photo of a young sailor kissing a woman in Times Square on V-Day, 1945. When not following photojournalistic assignments, Eisenstaedt loved spending time on Martha’s Vineyard, where he was able to “experiment” in a way that work didn’t permit; he played with lenses, filters, prisms and natural light, producing a series of “art shots” that almost appear to come from the hands of a different artist. His final photo session took place on the island in 1993 with then-President Bill Clinton and family.