Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995), or Eisie to those who knew him, received his first camera as a gift from his uncle at 14, a few years after moving to Berlin from Poland with his family. At 17, he was drafted to the German army. His interest in photography blossomed while recovering from a shrapnel wound. He became a regular at museums, studying light and composition.
By 31, he was a full-time photographer. In 1933 he was sent to Italy where he shot the first meeting between Hitler and Mussolini. Two years later, when Hitler came to power, Eisie immigrated to America.
Soon after arriving in New York, he was hired along with three other photographers—Margaret Bourke-White, Thomas McAvoy and Peter Stackpole—by Time Inc. founder Henry Luce for a secret start-up venture known as “Project X." Six months later, LIFE magazine premiered on November 23, 1936. The first issue sold for 10 cents and featured five pages of Eisie’s pictures.
His most famous photo was the kiss in Times Square on V-J day, about which he said, “I was running along the street grabbing any and every girl in sight. Whether she was a grandmother, stout, thin, old, didn’t make any difference. None of the pictures that were possible pleased me. Then, suddenly in a flash I saw something white being grabbed. I turned and clicked the moment the sailor kissed the nurse.”
Over his career, Eisie shot a total of nearly 100 covers for LIFE magazine and some 10,000 prints.
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