Alfred Eisenstaedt: The Father of Photojournalism


Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995). Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

Alfred Eisenstaedt was a German photographer and photojournalist. He is best known for his photograph of the V-J Day celebration and for his candid photographs, frequently made using a 35mm Leica camera.

Eisenstaedt’s most famous photograph is of an American sailor kissing a young woman on August 14, 1945 in Times Square. He took this famous photograph using a Leica IIIa. (The photograph is known under various names:  V-J Day in Times Square, V-Day, etc.)  Because Eisenstaedt was photographing rapidly changing events during the celebrations, he stated that he didn’t get a chance to obtain names and details, which has encouraged a number of mutually incompatible claims to the identity of the subjects.

V-J Day in Times Square, a photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, was published in Life in 1945 with the caption, “In New York’s Times Square a white-clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on hers.” Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

The photograph was published a week later in Life magazine among many photographs of celebrations around the country that were presented in a twelve-page section titled Victory.  Kissing was a favorite pose encouraged by media photographers of service personnel during the war, but Eisenstaedt was photographing a spontaneous event that occurred in Times Square as the announcement of the end of the war on Japan was made by U.S. President Harry S. Truman at seven o’clock. Similar jubilation spread quickly with the news.

“I went from Doctors Hospital to Times Square that day because the war was over, and where else does a New Yorker go?” Edith Shain said in 2008, when she donned a white nurse’s uniform again and was grand marshal of New York’s Veterans Day parade. “And this guy grabbed me and we kissed, and then I turned one way and he turned the other. There was no way to know who he was, but I didn’t mind because he was someone who had fought for me.”

“As for the picture,” she said, “it says so many things — hope, love, peace and tomorrow. The end of the war was a wonderful experience, and that photo represents all those feelings.”

Some of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous quotations are:

  • “One the amateur’s native approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it.  Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.”
  • “We are only beginning to learn what to say in a photograph.  The world we live in is a succession of fleeting moments, any one of which might say something significant.”
  • “The important thing is not the camera, but the eye.”

And now you know why I have a growing passion towards photography.  I know I’m still wet behind my ears, but I’m learning as much as I can.  Good Day.

3 thoughts on “Alfred Eisenstaedt: The Father of Photojournalism”

  1. “Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur.” That’s exactly right, and the reason it’s so important is contained in the word itself. Amateur. I’ve a post coming on exactly this point, and a refutation of one of the most common bits of writing advice. To my way of thinking, Eisenstaedt got it right.

  2. Hi Jim and Linda:

    Some people are so smart in what they think and say. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to read and the Internet is an unfathomable source of information.

    Regards,

    Omar.-

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