About the Photographer
American, b. Prussia, 1898-1995
A photographer for LIFE Magazine for over forty years, Alfred Eisenstaedt was a pioneer of a spontaneous, candid style of photojournalism that grew to be the standard in the United States. Aiming to capture fleeting gestures and telling moments, Eisenstaedt typically worked with minimal equipment and available natural light. Born in former Prussia, Eisenstaedt served as a German soldier in World War I (1914-1918). After being seriously injured, he worked as a salesman and became an avid amateur photographer. In 1929 Eisenstaedt began a career as a professional photographer and soon acheived prominence in Germany's emerging photojournalism scene. During this period Eisenstaedt covered Hitler's rise even though, as a German Jew, Eisenstaedt narrowly escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to the United States in 1935.
In 1936 Eisenstaedt was one of four photographers—along with Margaret Bourke-White, Thomas McAvoy and Peter Stackpole—who were hired by Henry Luce for a new venture, at the time referenced as Project X. Six months later Luce unveiled LIFE, one of the world's first photograph-centered news magazines, with pictures by Eisenstaedt in the inaugural issue. Eisenstaedt's most famous photograph (and one of the most widely recognized images in the history of journalism) is a 1945 picture of a sailor kissing a young nurse in Times Square on V-J Day after Japan's surrender brought an end to World War II. Over the course of his career with LIFE, Eisenstaedt was incredibly prolific, and he completed 2,500 assignments all over the world and produced 92 cover photographs. In addition to covering numerous important events, Eisenstaedt also made portraits for the magazine, including of T.S. Eliot, George Bernard Shaw, Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, and John F. Kennedy.
Though Eisenstaedt was one of LIFE's premiere photographers and his work was seen by millions of people, his photographs were not widely exhibited in museums and galleries until the 1980s. He had his first major retrospective at the age of eighty-eight at the International Center for Photography in New York. An active photographer for over sixty years, he continued to work until two years before his death, completing his last portrait session in 1993 with President Bill Clinton and his family.