Alfred Eisenstaedt (December 6, 1898 – August 23, 1995) was a German-born American , was a professional photographer for almost 70 years. . He began his career in pre-World War II Germany, and after moving to the U.S., achieved prominence as a staff photographer for Life Magazine which featured more than 90 of his pictures on its covers with over 2,500 photo stories published.
Among his most famous cover photographs was V-J Day in Times Square, taken during the V-J Day celebration in New York City, showing "an exuberant American sailor kissing a nurse in a dancelike dip [that] summed up the euphoria many Americans felt as the war came to a close." Eisenstaedt was "renowned for his ability to capture memorable images of important people in the news, including statesmen, movie stars and artists" and for his candid photographs, taken with a small 35mm Leica camera and typically with only natural lighting.
Small in stature, dapper, indefatigable—"I cannot believe that any photographer today works as much as I worked in the past," he told an interviewer in 1993—"Eisie" traveled the world, making indelible portraits of famous people and places, infamous scoundrels and anonymous (but, through his lens, immortalized) men, women and children.
"Eisenstaedt never lost his childlike interest in things and people, in what made them what they were," Robert Andreas wrote in the 2004 book, The Great LIFE Photographers. "He would put his subjects at ease, then get up close and take a few pictures—he didn't need roll after roll—then it was on to the next person, the next happening, tirelessly pursuing the heart of the matter that he saw so easily and wanted very much for us to see too."
Here, on the anniversary of Eisenstaedt's death in 1995, LIFE.com celebrates "this little fellow from Germany" (Andreas again) with 22 pictures culled from the hundreds of thousands of photos he shot through the years. Many of these photographs will be familiar to our readers. Some of them are among photography's most widely recognized, most frequently reproduced images. A few of them might be pictures that you've never seen before. But all of them share the unmistakable, deeply humane sensibility that defined the very best work of the man who made them.
Never boss people around. It's more important to click with people than to click the shutter.
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