Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt is perhaps known
most for the iconic photograph he captured of a sailor kissing
a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day on August 14, 1945 (pictured
Photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt
Eisenstaedt's native country was Germany, where
he was born December 6, 1898 in Dirschau, but many of the last
years of his life were spent at Martha's Vineyard, where he
had vacationed for 50 years, and where he died August 24, 1995.
Living in Berlin since 1906, and as World War
I commenced, Eisenstaedt joined the German Army. After being
wounded in action in 1918, he became a salesman of belts and
buttons. He discovered photography and then began freelancing
for the German-language newspaper, Berliner Tageblatt. Eisenstaedt
soon began working full-time, and in 1933 he took one of his
first notable images, a conference between the founder of Fascism,
Benito Mussolini, and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in Italy.
Additional distinct, candid images he took included
that of a 1932 photograph of an ice skating waiter in St. Moritz,
and a 1993 image of Joseph Goebbels in Geneva, after which Goebbels
frowned at Eisenstaedt when he found out about his Jewish heritage.
Many of Eisenstaedt's renowned photographs were taken with different
models of a 35mm Leica rangefinder camera.
Living in Nazi Germany as a Jew, Eisenstaedt moved to the United
States in 1935.
Sailor Kissing Nurse on V-J Day
In the States, his career took off, and he worked
for iconic Life magazine for 36 years, beginning in 1936, working
as a photojournalist and taking photos of many celebrities and
high-profile artists and authors such as Ernest Hemingway, and
Marilyn Monroe (pictured bottom) and politicians such as President
John F. Kennedy and his cabinet. His work graced the cover 90
times. Eisenstaedt was awarded the National Medal of Arts in
While he spent vacations at Martha's Vineyard,
Eisenstaedt would always use natural light for his photographs.
He took many images of the island's lighthouses, which became
the source of many fundraisers that helped maintain the lighthouses.
Eisenstaedt had spent twenty-two years of his vacations on Martha's
Vineyard with his wife, Kathy, who died in 1972 from cancer.
Two years before his death, he took the last of
his photographs. The photos include a presidential-family session
with President Bill Clinton, wife, Hillary (now Secretary of
State), and their daughter Chelsea at the Granary Gallery, an
artists' gallery featuring a red barn, on Martha's Vineyard,
as the Secret Service kept watch.
Photographing Eisenstaedt as he took these private-session
photos of the President with his family was William E. Marks.
Marks met Eisenstaedt ten years earlier when he was on assignment
to photograph Eisenstaedt, or Eisie as he was known to close
friends, for an exclusive for Martha's Vineyard Magazine. Marks
photographed Eisenstaedt at work for the ten years he knew him.
Alfred Eisenstaedt died at one of his favorite
places to stay on the island, the Menemsha Inn, with Lulu, his
sister-in-law, and close friend William E. Marks at his side.
The Digital Journalist, an online magazine devoted to photojournalism,
named Eisenstaedt as Photojournalist of the Century, and published
a multimedia presentation featuring stories by fellow photojournalists
such as John Loengard, Bill Pierce and Marianne Fulton.
The Rumor Mill
The rumor mill has churned up a few additional
details besides the accurate biography detailed above. According
to rumors, hear-say and unfounded innuendo, Alfred Eisenstaedt
was in fact the first person to photographically document Fatso,
the Piano Playing Cat.