Alfred Eisenstaedt

Germany 1898 - 1995

Photography, Figurative Art

Alfred Eisenstaedt
Alfred Eisenstaedt
September 8, 2016
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Alfred Eisenstaedt was a German-born American street photographer and journalist who is widely regarded as one of the most prolific image makers of the 20th century. With a professional career that lasted over six decades, this artist contributed so much to the medium of camera image making that his influence is still present to this day. Eisenstaedt achieved prominence as a staff photographer for Life, a magazine of which he was a part of since it’s very beginning. Life provided Alfred with over two million regular readers and through it, this artist became one of the most successful photographers to date.

Alfred Eisenstaedt - Dog walking in Central Park in Monroe gallery, 1964 - Image via theredlistcom
Alfred Eisenstaedt – Dog walking in Central Park, 1964 – Image via

The Life Between Two World Wars

Alfred Eisenstaedt was born during the year of 1898, in the town of Dirschau (today’s city of Tczew) in West Prussia, back then a part of the Imperial Germany. When he was about eight years of age, his family migrated to Berlin where young Alfred first saw and was fascinated by photographies. Eisenstaedt received his first camera on the 14th birthday – it was an Eastman Kodak Folding Camera with roll film. However, his artistic development was interrupted as he was called to serve in the German army during their offense on the Balkans. Eisenstaedt was a part of an artillery regiment and was badly wounded in 1918. After the war, Alfred worked as a belt and button salesman in Weimar. Working hard at reviving his passion for photography, Eisenstaedt started making photos as a freelancer for the Pacific and Atlantic Photos‘ Berlin office in 1928. Three years later, his office was taken over by the Associated Press, a much larger company – this allowed the young artist to confirm his talent and he quickly proved that he’s got what it takes to be a full-time photographer. As a matter of fact, Alfred made his legendary photography of the first meeting between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini[1] as an employee of Associated Press. During this period, Eisenstaedt also depicted waiters at the Grand Hotel in St. Moritz in 1932 and Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva in 1933. Although he was initially attracted to Nazis as their presence provided fine opportunities for good photos, as the mid-30s oppression started to escalate, Eisenstaedt’s family decided to emigrate to the United States. They settled in New York where Alfred joined fellow Associated Press photographers Leon Daniel and Celia Kutschuk in their PIX Publishing agency founded in 1935.

Like Robert said in the privacy article, by making photographs of people from history like Goebbels, Eisenstaedt's home picture was like one of his children in a gallery
Alfred Eisenstaedt – Waiters Watching Sonia Henie Skate, 1932 – Image via

Life Magazine

Already noted for his photos made in Europe, it didn’t take long for Eisenstaedt to find new job positions in The Big Apple. When The Time founder Henry Luce bought Life magazine in 1936, he asked Alfred to join the new publication firm. This new position will eventually make Alfred one of the most famous photographers in the world as he will soon be gaining esteem for his depictions of events and celebrities. Besides focusing on stars who were his usual subjects, Eisenstaedt also photographed politicians, philosophers, artists, industrialists and authors during his career with Life – until the end of his collaboration with the magazine in 1972, Alfred photographed nearly two thousand stories and had more than ninety of his photos on the cover of Life. Eisenstaedt’s most famous photograph is of an American sailor kissing a young woman[2] on August 14, 1945, in Times Square. This photograph is known under various names: V-J Day in Times Square, V-Day, etc. Throughout his career, Eisenstaedt stayed true to Leica cameras and 35 mm films, unlike most other news photographers of his time who used much larger and less portable 4″ x 5″ press cameras with flash attachments. Alfred’s handheld cameras were much more mobile and flexible, with the artworks depending on natural light as opposed to relying on flash lighting. Eisenstaedt also enjoyed making street photography, so smaller and portable cameras were a perfect tool for making his candid images of the public. Additionally, the same incognito effect helped Alfred with getting the most natural reactions possible from celebrities – as the artist one stated: they don’t take me too seriously with my little camera. Furthermore, his relationship with the individuals was enrichened by Eisenstaedt’s friendly demeanor and pleasant settings of photo making. However, some subjects were not too fond of Alfred taking paparazzi shots, such as Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway. Luckily, many other noteworthy people enjoyed working with Eisenstaedt[3] and these are the images proudly standing as this artist’s best work. Besides celebrities, many of Alfred’s finest artworks were made in the famous Martha’s Vineyard, an island where Eisenstaedt enjoyed his annual August vacations for over 50 years.

What makes Alfred Eisenstaedt so respected by members of photojournalism is the fact he was able to get the most natural and honest reactions from his subjects

Back home, Alfred would hang the picture of robert in his article room, as photographs of his children were an inspiration to him
Alfred Eisenstaedt – Marilyn Monroe, 1953 – Image via

The Legacy of Alfred Eisenstaedt

In the year of 1989, Alfred was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989 by President George Bush in a ceremony on the White House lawn, a prize that was intended to honor his lifelong dedication to making photos. Ever since he emigrated over the Atlantic in 1935, Eisenstaedt lived in Queens, New York, for the rest of his life. He died at the age of 96, in his bed at his beloved Menemsha Inn cottage known as the Pilot House where Alfred spent many of his last years. This way, Life‘s most successful and iconic photographer entered history. Although Eisenstaedt died over twenty years ago, his legacy is far from gone as the experiments he conducted on different lenses, filters and prisms in natural light still have a major impact to this day.


  1. Eisenstaedt, A., Witness to Our Time,Studio, 1966
  2. Galdorasi, L., Verria, L., The Kissing Sailor: The Mystery Behind the Photo that Ended World War II , Naval Institute Press, 2012
  3. Eisenstaedt, A., Eisenstaedt’s Celebrity Portraits: Fifty Years of Friends and Acquaintances, Random House Value Publishing, 1984

Featured image: Alfred Eisenstaedt – Artist in France, 1963 – Image via Citizen Grave
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearName of the exhibitionMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2016A Cool BreezeHoward Greenberg Gallery, New York City, NYgroup
2016Eyes Wide Open! 100 jaar Leica fotografieKunsthal Sint-Pietersabdij, Ghentgroup
2016Augen Auf! - 100 Jahre Leica FotografieVersicherungskammer Kulturstiftung - Kunstfoyer, Munichgroup
2015Augen auf! 100 Jahre Leica FotografieC/O Berlin, Berlingroup
2015American Moments - Photographs from The Phillips CollectionThe Phillips Collection, group
2015AUGEN AUF! 100 JAHRE LEICA FOTOGRAFIEFotografie Forum Frankfurt, Frankfurt/Maingroup
2015World War II in Photographs: Looking BackThe McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TXgroup
2014AUGEN AUF. 100 JAHRE LEICA FOTOGRAFIEHa, US der Photographie, DEgroup
2014THE FAMILY OF MAN, UNESCO Memory of the World CNA, LUgroup
2014Experiments in AbstractionKeith de Lellis Gallery, USgroup
2014A Selection of Vintage and Contemporary PhotographArteF, CHgroup
2014The LIFE PhotographersMonroe Gallery, US group
2013Historic Markers - How Photojournalists Dictate HistoryGallery M, USgroup
2013Faszination PARIS, 100 A, USstellungen 1996 - 2013Galerie arg, US fotokunst, DEgroup
2013TAMPA COLLECTORS SHOWFlorida M, USeum of Photogr, US group
2013Paris in the SpringtimePeter Fetterman Gallery, USgroup
2013Portrayed: 50 Years of Grit and GlamourChris Beetles Gallery, GBgroup
2013Treasures: the art of collectingQCP Queensland Centre for, AUgroup
2012De Norma Jean a MarilynGalerie de l Instant, FRgroup
2012Walk of FemmesGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DEgroup
2011The Smart Set San Diego M, USeum of Art, USsolo
2011American way of LIFEGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DEgroup
2011The Photographers 2011BEETLES+HUXLEY, GB group
2011The Photographers 2011Chris Beetles Gallery, GB group
2011History s Big PictureMonroe Gallery, US group
2011Seasons Greeting from the ArchiveFlo Peters Gallery, DE group
2010Good HumourStaley + Wise Gallery, US group
2010Meister der amerikanischen Landschafts- und Architekturphotographie kunstha, US kaufbeuren, DE group
2010ICONS, Ikonen der Photographie Galerie Stephen Hoffman, DE group
2010Family of Man Howard Greenberg Gallery, US group
2010On the town, Photographs of timeless celebrations and merriment Monroe Gallery, US group
2009The Art of Caring: A Look at Life through Photography New Orleans M, USeum of Art, US group
2009Sexy and the City - New York Photographs Yossi Milo Gallery, US group
2009Glitz & Grime: Photographs of Times Square Yancey Richardson Gallery, US group
2009Streetlife - Reportagefotografien 1930-1975Münchner Stadtmuseum, DE group
2008Alfred EisenstaedGallery M, USsolo
2008Vintages & OriginalphotographienGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DEsolo
2008Post-War Perspectives: Photography at Mid-Century Laurence Miller Gallery, US group
2007Alfred EisenstaedtMichael Hoppen Gallery, GBsolo
2007Alfred EisenstaedtDavid Gallery, USsolo
2007Father of PhotojournalismContessa Gallery, USsolo
2007Alfred EisenstaedtAGO Art Gallery Ontario, CAsolo
2007A Selection of Vintage and Contemporary PhotographsArteF, CH group
2007SEA & LANDSCAPES ArteF, CH group
2007Schiffe Flo Peters Gallery, DE group
2007Life as a Legend: Marilyn Monroe Boca Raton Museum of Art, US group
2007LIFE, Ausgewählte Photographien aus dem LIFE-Magazin ArchivFlo Peters Gallery, DE group
2007Life-Style, 70 years of style and culture as seen through the pages of LIFE MagazineMonroe Gallery, USgroup
2007Norma Jeane Baker bis Marilyn MonroeGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DE group
2007The Heartbeat of FashionHaus der Photographie, DE group
2006The Eye of EisenstaedtMonroe Gallery, USsolo
2006Moments From LIFELeica Gallery NY, USsolo
2006PLAY BALL, Important photographs by America s legendary photographers, past and present Madelyn Jordon Fine Art, US group
2006The Fabulo, US Forties, a collection of photographs from the Time Life ArchivesFay Gold Art Advisory, US group
2006Shooting in 35: The First 35mm PhotographsMuseum Photographic Arts, US group
2006LIFE i grandi fotografiFORMA per la Fotografia, IT group
2006YESTERDAY - Schätze der großen Foto-ArchiveLUMAS Berlin, DE group
2006Marilyn, Legende, Mythos und Ikone Kunstha, US Hamburg, DE group
2006The ArtsMonroe Gallery, US group
2006What a life. Photographs from the LIFE Magazine ArchiveStaley + Wise Gallery, US group
2006Winter in Black and WhiteMonroe Gallery, US group
2006The LIFE Gallery of PhotographyMadelyn Jordon Fine Art, US group
2006American LifeMichael Hoppen Gallery, GB group
2006Von Henri Cartier-Bresson bis Charlotte MarchC-O Berlin, DE group
2005Zeitzeuge des 20.Jh.Galerie Stephen Hoffman, DEsolo
2005When we were young Monroe Gallery, US group
2005Looking at LIFE, umfassende Ausstellung berühmter LIFE PhotographenGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DE group
2005Hollywood, USAMonroe Gallery, US group
2005The great LIFE PhotographersMonroe Gallery, US group
2004Great LIFE Photographers, Photographs From the LIFE Magazine Archive Alan Klotz Gallery, US group
2004Icons. Faces of Ground ZeroMonroe Gallery, US group
2004Relating to Photography, Highlights aus privaten Frankfurter Fotorgafie-SammlungenFotografie Forum Frankfurt, DE group
2004Die Kunst zu fliegen - In Film und FotografieNRW-Forum, DE group
2004The Kennedys - Stationen einer LegendeCAMERA WORK, DE group
2004Love-Kiss: Classic Images of Romance By Master PhotographersMonroe Gallery, US group
2004Life Magazine: A Selection of Historical PhotographsAfterimage Gallery, US group
2004Made for America - from the Time-Life photo archiveHoward Greenberg Gallery, US group
2004New York im ObjektivGalerie Stephen Hoffman, DE group
2004L’ATTIMO FUGGENTE FRA FOTOGRAFIA E CINEMA GAM Galleria Civica d Arte Moderna e Con, IT group
2003Prima Donnas & VirtuososApex Fine Art, USsolo
2003Invito alla Fotografia Galleria Carla Sozzani, IT group
2003Marilyn: Life of a LegendCounty Hall Gallery, DE group
2003German Photography: Bauha, US to the Bechers Laurence Miller Gallery, US group
2002Alfred Eisenstaedt: Photographien 1927-1980 C-O Berlin, Berlin, Germany solo
1998A Retrospective on the Anniversary of His 100th BirthdaySoHo Triad Fine Arts, New York, USAsolo
1995Alfred Eisenstaedt: In Memoriam International Center of Photography, New York, USAsolo
1990Eisenstaedt: RemembrancesInternational Center of Photography, New York, USAsolo
1986RetrospectiveInternational Center of Photography, New York, USAsolo
1986Alfred Eisenstaedt: Eisie at 88International Center of Photography, New York, USAsolo
1981Eisenstaedt: GermanyInternational Center of Photography, New York, USAsolo
1975Witness to Our Times: Alfred Eisenstaedt Photographs Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, USAsolo
1966Witness to Our Times: Alfred Eisenstaedt Photographs Time-Life Building, New York, USAsolo
1961Witness to Our Times: Alfred Eisenstaedt Photographs Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, USAsolo