May 25, 2023
There's something captivating about the way Alfred Eisenstaedt photographed life.
He observed everyday scenes of the 20th century – Penn Station at rush hour, a Milanese opera house during intermission, a young boy selling Coca-Cola – and shaped them into moments of timeless history. His photographs didn't just serve to document current events; they told stories of life more compelling than any kind of fiction.
Eisenstaedt immigrated to the United States in 1935 fleeing the growing threat of Nazism. He was soon recruited by LIFE magazine as one of its 4 staff photographers, a publication that would become synonymous with his name. For over four decades, Eisenstaedt's images - 90 of which featured on the cover - offered readers a glimpse into both the monumental events and subtle nuances of American life.
In the everyday frenzy of Penn Station’s rush hour, Eisenstaedt saw and immortalized not the crush of bodies, but the normalized urgency of modern life. His portrayal of Milan’s La Scala opera house in 1933 wasn't just about the splendor of the building or its patrons, but the palpable anticipation of intermission and the intimacy of a shared experience. Through Eisenstaedt's eyes, these ordinary moments were caught and illuminated; becoming fossilized in the bedrock of American history.
To Henri Cartier-Bresson, "Alfred Eisenstaedt has the ability to capture the fleeting reality... It is the fleeting moment that he captures and makes eternal."
Indeed, Eisenstaedt had a gift for making the transient permanent, for capturing moments that would otherwise be lost in the sands of time. His photographs are a testament to his ability to see beyond the obvious, to delve deeper into the heart of the American landscape. His work wasn't about embellishing reality, but about revealing its inherent beauty.
Eisenstaedt encouraged us to look closer, to see the magic in the mundane. In a world where the ordinary is often overlooked in favor of the sensational, his photographs serve as a reminder that every moment holds its own spectacle, if only we dare to look.
Executive Creative Director