Perhaps a little geeky, but I honestly find 20th Century history fascinating… 100 years of intense social, religious and scientific change. Alfred Eisenstaedt’s life spanned almost the whole of the 20th Century. Born in Dirschau in 1898, his family moved to Berlin in 1906. He went on to serve in the german artillery during the Great War. During the Weimar Republic years Eisenstaedt began to take photographs freelance for the Berliner Tageblatt, becoming a full-time photographer in 1929.
When the Nazis rose to power in 1933, he photographed a meeting between Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy and Joseph Goebbels at the League of Nations in Geneva. Although initially friendly, Goebbels later scowled for the photograph when he learned that Eisenstaedt was Jewish.
As time passed and Hitler’s visions for a racially pure Germany became clearer, Eisenstaedt realised his patriotic military service during the Great War would do nothing to help him escape nazi oppression and so in 1935 he emigrated to America, where he spent the rest of his life. He took this well-known photograph in Times Square the day Japan surrendered in August 1945. The story goes that this particular sailor was taking advantage of the celebratory mood and kissing girl after girl… even receiving a slap for this one!
“V-J Day in Times Square” by Alfred Eisenstaedt 1945
Such an extraordinary turn of events, that this man who fought in the trenches against the allies in the First World War could go on to become one of America’s best loved photographers. Eisenstaedt’s final photographs were of President Bill Clinton and his family at Martha’s Vineyard in 1993.