A while back, we decided that if The Digital Journalist made it to the end of the millennium, we wanted to pay homage to the one photojournalist among all others who had made the greatest contribution, not only to our profession, but to our photographic legacy as well.
This person had to be a photojournalist first and foremost. There are many photographers, like Paul Strand, Richard Avedon, Arnold Newman, and Ansel Adams, who have had a monumental impact on photography as artists and innovators. But, if anything, the 20th century is and has been the time of the photojournalist. The impact of the visual storyteller is perhaps the most profound factor in how we remember the great events and people of this amazing century.
We also chose to differentiate photojournalists from "news photographers," but not out of any sort of elitism. Certainly, there have been so many great pictures made by working news photographers, from Joe Rosenthal's flag being raised on Iwo Jima, to Eddie Adam's icon of a Vietcong being shot on a street in Saigon. We looked past individual photographs. We looked to those people with a special gift for storytelling, those who learned to use the technology, made possible by the 35mm camera, to go beyond the "decisive moment" and illuminate the lives of people and the events surrounding them.
The field of candidates included the following:
However, when it came to choosing the one photojournalist who had the most profound impact, and who leaves the greatest legacy, there was no question whom that person is – Alfred Eisenstaedt.
Eisie took note early on – as a news photographer in Berlin, in the late 1920s – of a new small camera invented by Dr. Erich Salomon: the Ermanox. By reducing the image size to that of a postage stamp, it was possible to devise lenses for it fast enough to take pictures with ordinary room light, no flash. Eisie instinctively understood that with this tool it would be possible to work unobtrusively, recording people as they really are. He took advantage of every talent and attribute he had.
One, an accident of God, was his small
stature. Eisie could easily slip unnoticed into a room. He was a chameleon,
and his charm made him welcome with every subject he approached. Most important,
as Carl Mydans writes in this month's issue, he had the curiosity of a
child. He never stopped being amazed and delighted by watching and photographing
the people around him. This youthfulness of mind and spirit endured throughout
his life. A year before he died, in 1995, he told me "I have the body of
a 90-year-old, but the mind of a 20-year-old."
THIS EDITORIAL IS COPYRIGHTED BY DIRCK
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