Above Image: Children at a Puppet Theatre, Paris, 1963 © Alfred Eisenstaedt/Magnum Photos
Alfred Eisenstaedt was born into an affluent family on December 6th, 1898, in West Prussia. His father, who owned a department store, retired in 1906 and in doing so moved the family to Berlin. Eisenstaedt was given his first camera aged thirteen, and was soon inseparable from it. However, in 1914, with the outbreak of the war, his newfound passion for photography was interrupted when he was recruited into the German army. After the war, he sought any paid job he could find, even becoming a button and belt salesman.
By 1925, Eisenstaedt had saved up enough money for a Zeiss camera and, by 1929, was earning more as a freelance photographer than as a salesman. Although his employer tried to warn him off photography, he left his job and took his first steps towards fame. He began his photographic career at the agency Pacific and Atlantic Photos’ Berlin office in 1928, from where he was sent on various assignments, photographing portraits of a wide range of sitters, from writers to royalty.
Eisenstaedt built a name for himself in Berlin and photographed figures such as Hitler and Mussolini at a meeting in Italy, and Goebbels at the 1933 League of Nations Assembly in Geneva. However, he soon moved to New York where he hoped there would be even greater opportunities for a photojournalist. There, he impressed the editor of LIFE magazine, particularly with his photographs of musicians, and over the next fifty years Eisenstaedt’s photographs appeared on more than eighty covers for LIFE. Not only did he photograph famous personalities but he also captured spontaneous moments including VJ Day, which shows a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square in 1945, that became his most well-known contribution to LIFE magazine.
In 1954 Eisenstaedt held his first solo exhibition in New York and went on to win numerous awards, including the National Medal of the Arts award in 1989. Eisenstaedt was an extremely influential photographer and has been called the “father of photojournalism”.
Alfred Eisenstaedt died on 24 August 1995, aged 97.
Image Right: V-J Day in Times Square, New York, August 14, 1945 © Alfred Eisenstaedt/Magnum Photos
Right: Sir Winston Churchill, Liverpool, 1951 © Alfred Eisenstaedt/Magnum Photos