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Louis Stettner
Louis Stettner

Louis Stettner

Country: United States
Birth: 1922 | Death: 2016

Louis Stettner was an American photographer of the 20th century whose work included streetscapes, portraits and architectural images of New York and Paris. His work has been highly regarded because of its humanity and capturing the life and reality of the people and streets. Starting in 1947, Stettner photographed the changes in the people, culture, and architecture of both cities. He continued to photograph New York and Paris up until his death.

My way of life, my very being is based on images capable of engraving themselves indelibly in our inner soul’s eye.

-- Louis Stettner


Louis Stettner was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he was one of four children. His father was a cabinet maker, and Louis learned the trade when young, using the money he earned to support his growing love of photography. He was given a box camera as a child, and his love affair with photography began. His family went on trips to Manhattan and visited museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where his love of art began.

At 18, in 1940, Stettner enlisted in the United States army and became a combat photographer in Europe for the Signal Corps. After a brief stint in Europe he was sent to New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan.

Back from the war Stettner joined the Photo League in New York. Stettner visited Paris in 1946 and in 1947 moved there. From 1947 to 1949 he studied at the Institut des Hautes Études Cinématographiques in Paris and received a Bachelor of Arts in Photography & Cinema. He went back and forth between New York and Paris for almost two decades and finally settled permanently in Saint-Ouen, near Paris, in 1990. Stettner still frequently returned to New York.

Stettner's professional work in Paris began with capturing life in the post-war recovery. He captured the everyday lives of his subjects. In the tradition of the Photo League, he wanted to investigate the bonds that connect people to one another. In 1947 he was asked by the same Photo League to organize an exhibition of French photographers in New York. He gathered the works of some of the greatest photographers of the era, including Robert Doisneau, George Brassaï, Edouard Boubat, Izis, and Willy Ronis. The show was a big success and was largely reviewed in the annual issue of U.S. Camera. Stettner had begun a series of regular meetings with Brassaï who was a great mentor and had a significant influence on his work. In 1949, Stettner had his first exhibition at the Salon des Indépendants at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris.

Brassaï showed me that it was possible to find something significant in photographing subjects in everyday life doing ordinary things by interpreting them in your own way and with your own personal vision.

-- Louis Stettner


In 1951 his work was included in the famous Subjektive Fotografie exhibition in Germany. During the 1950s he freelanced for Time Magazine, Life, Fortune, and Du (Germany). While in Paris he reconnected with Paul Strand, who had also left New York because of the political intolerance of the McCarthy era—Strand had been a founder of the Photo League that would be blacklisted and then banned during those years.

In the 1970s Stettner spent more time in New York City, where he taught at Brooklyn College, Queens College, and Cooper Union.

In his own work, Stettner focused on documenting the lives of the working class in both Paris and New York. He felt that the cities belong to the people who live there, not to tourists or visitors. His upbringing caused him to take great care in capturing the simple human dignity of the working class. He also captured noteworthy architectural images of both cities, including bridges, buildings, and monuments. Stettner produced well-known images, including: Aubervilliers, Brooklyn Promenade, Twin Towers with Sea Gull, Penn Station, and the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park.

In his nineties, Stettner turned to a large format camera of the dimensions used by his hero, Paul Strand; an 8×10 Deardorff in order to photograph details of the landscape of Les Alpilles in Provence where Van Gogh often painted, assisted by his wife Janet. Stettner received numerous honors, and in 1950 he was named Life's top new photographer. In 1975 he won First Prize in the Pravda World Contest.

Louis Stettner’s works are posthumously managed by the Louis Stettner Estate.

Source: Wikipedia


 

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This project was supposed to take him three weeks, but spanned three years and tens of thousands of negatives. It was too large ever to be shown, although a series of book-length photo essays were eventually produced. From 1957 to 1965 he took photographs and made recordings of jazz musicians at a Manhattan loft shared by David X. Young, Dick Cary and Hall Overton. In January 1972, William Eugene Smith was attacked by Chisso employees near Tokyo, in an attempt to stop him from further publicizing the Minamata disease to the world. Although Smith survived the attack, his sight in one eye deteriorated. Smith and his Japanese wife lived in the city of Minamata from 1971 to 1973 and took many photos as part of a photo essay detailing the effects of Minamata disease, which was caused by a Chisso factory discharging heavy metals into water sources around Minamata. One of his most famous works, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, taken in December 1971 and published a few months after the 1972 attack, drew worldwide attention to the effects of Minamata disease. Complications from his long-term consumption of drugs, notably amphetamines (taken to enable his workaholic tendencies), and alcohol led to a massive stroke, from which Eugene Smith died in 1978. He is buried in Crum Elbow Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, New York. Smith was perhaps the originator and arguably the master of the photo-essay. In addition to Pittsburgh, these works include Nurse Midwife, Minamata, Country Doctor, and Albert Schweitzer - A Man of Mercy. Today, Smith's legacy lives on through the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund to promote "humanistic photography." Since 1980, the fund has awarded photographers for exceptional accomplishments in the field.Source: Wikipedia Born and reared in Wichita, Kansas, W. Eugene Smith became interested in photography at the age of fourteen, and three years later had begun to photograph for local newspapers. He received a photography scholarship to the University of Notre Dame, but he left after a year for New York, where he joined the staff of Newsweek and freelanced for LIFE, Collier's, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Times, and other publications. Beginning in 1939, Smith began working sporadically as a staff photographer for LIFE, with which he had a tempestuous relationship throughout the rest of his career. During World War II he was a war correspondent in the Pacific theater for the Ziff-Davis publishing company and LIFE, for whom he was working when he was severely wounded in Okinawa in 1945. After a two-year recuperation, he returned to the magazine and produced many of his best photo essays, including Country Doctor, Spanish Village, and A Man of Mercy. In 1955, he joined Magnum, the international cooperative photography agency founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Rodger and Chim (David Seymour), and began work on a large photographic study of Pittsburgh, for which he received Guggenheim Fellowships in 1956 and 1957. Smith continued to freelance for LIFE, Pageant, and Sports Illustrated, among other periodicals, for the rest of his career. From 1959 to 1977, he worked for Hitachi in Japan and taught at the New School for Social Research and the School of Visual Arts in New York and the University of Arizona in Tucson. His last photo essay, Minamata, completed in the 1970s, depicted victims of mercury poisoning in a Japanese fishing village. Smith is credited with developing the photo essay to its ultimate form. He was an exacting printer, and the combination of innovation, integrity and technical mastery in his photography made his work the standard by which photojournalism was measured for many years. In recognition of his outstanding contribution to the development of photojournalism, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund was established after his death to support the projects of photographers working in the tradition he established. Source: International Center of Photography
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