Photo album: Alfred Eisenstaedt 1986

All my life I have been a photo junkie, as a kid I could spend hours looking at trading pictures, sports photos, anything. But it wasn't until in my early twenties when I started taking pictures and became the photographer that I had always meant to be. I never had any role models or have been influenced by any other photographer. Throughout my career, people have sometimes dubbed me "the German Annie Leibovitz" (and I know they meant it as a compliment) but my whole work ethic is so different from hers that I cannot relate to this at all. The only photographer I can relate to - although I have not been influenced by him whatsoever - is Alfred Eisenstaedt.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

I met Eisenstaedt one day in 1986 when he visited Hamburg to attend the opening of an exhibition of his work. Of course everyone knows his most famous photographs but it was only after read the accompanying stories in his book "Eisenstaedt on Eisenstaedt" the day before my photo op that I realized how much we have in common (if I may say so). His equipment was simple, he worked with available light only, he studied the location before the shooting, he observed the people and connected to them and finally he didn't spend several hours bossing folks around. And being typically German, he was always on time.

newspaper article on Alfred Eisenstaedt, text and photo by Moni Kellermannnewspaper article in Hamburger Morgenpost
published May 6, 1986
(text and photo by me)

I did not get the chance to have an exclusive photo session with him, there were a handful of colleagues present as well. Mr. Eisenstaedt was 88 years old at that time, he was in great spirits and just a little insecure finding himself being photographed. He was such a sweet guy! I do not like to ask people for autographs or have them sign anything but I could not resist having Eisenstaedt sign my copy of his book. He took a ballpoint pen and scribbled "Eisenstaedt" in small letters into my book - no first name:

Alfred Eisenstaedt autographsigned Eisenstaedt book

Eisenstaedt is quoted having said "When I have a camera in my hand, I know no fear" which is very close to what I feel like when I take a photo - I simply feel so much being my real self right at that moment that it gives me inner peace and a connectedness to my soul that I may lack in other situations.

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt in action
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

Alfred Eisenstaedt, Hamburg, 1986, photo by Moni KellermannAlfred Eisenstaedt with his camera
Hamburg, Germany
May 5, 1986

And I just realized today that the last photo session he did was Bill and Hillary Clinton on Martha's Vineyard. My alter ego Hill Force One really likes this!

So, if you really have to compare me to anyone else, please dub me "the female Eisenstaedt". :)

On the Web:
LIFE on Both Sides of the Camera: Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Surprising Self-Portraits


Steve Rosenbach said...

Hello Moni,

I agree completely with you - it's much better to be an Eisenstaedt that a Liebovitz.

Mr. Eisenstaedt is one of my photo heroes, too. You can see in his photos of people how kind he was in relating to them. As we say in Yiddish, he was a real "Mentsch."

Thank you for this wonderful post!

best regards,

Post a Comment