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Alfred Eisenstaedt (American, 1898-1995)


Birth Place: Germany (Europe)

Born in 1898, Eisenstaedt and his family moved to Berlin when he was just a little boy. He began taking photographs as a young teenager. After serving with the German army during World War I, he returned to freelance photography, eventually working for the Associated Press in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Eisenstaedt’s work for the AP allowed him to interact with many important political people of the day. In fact, he took pictures of both Hitler and Mussolini in the years prior to World War II. But the rise of the Nazi party in his home country bode ill for Eisenstaedt and his family since they were Jewish. Sensing the danger, they immigrated to New York in 1935, and Eisenstaedt became a U.S. citizen the very next year.

His photographic work from Germany was respected enough to help him land a position as one of the first staff photographers for the then new Life magazine. He would remain with Life for over 35 years, becoming a famous photo-journalist and contributing over 90 cover pictures for the well-loved journal, as well as countless other photos on the inside pages. One of his best known pictures, often called "V-J Day in Times Square" shows a jubilant sailor kissing a nurse with great abandon. The photo was taken during the New York celebration of the Allied victory over Japan, a victory which brought an end to WWII. It became an iconic photograph for the era.

Eisenstaedt was known for his brilliant use of natural lighting, his ability to capture candid action shots, and his work with smaller cameras than cameras that many other photographers of his day used. He often took photos with a 35 mm Leica camera. His focus and speed enabled him to take some truly memorable pictures.

Besides the V-J photograph, other well-known photographs taken by Eisenstaedt include portraits of actresses Sophia Loren, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, pictures of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American author Ernest Hemingway, and a photo of an ice-skating waiter taken at the Grand Hotel in St. Moritz in 1932. The ground-breaking work he did with Life magazine has earned him the name "father of photojournalism."

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