Happy Birthday, Lucien Aigner!

Born in Hungary on September 14, Lucien Aigner (1901-1999) was a pioneer of photojournalism, and his works have been the focus of two ICP exhibitions. Best known for his coverage of pre-World War II Europe, including political events, personalities, and daily life, Aigner was one of the first photographers to use the newly invented 35mm Leica. This small, unobtrusive camera allowed the user to more easily capture spontaneous moments.  Together with his contemporaries Alfred Eisenstaedt and Robert Capa, Aigner helped lay the foundation for modern photojournalism.

aigner_lucien_286_1982Lucien Aigner, “Aeroplage” in Le Touquet, ca. 1933 (286.1982)

aigner_lucien_340_1982Lucien Aigner, Ballet Practice at the Grand Opera, Paris, 1934 (340.1982)

aigner_lucien_313_1982Lucien Aigner, The Ballet of the Photographers at a Windswept Mountain Top in Hawaii, 1954 (313.1982)

According to photo historian Andrew Eskind, Aigner “delighted in the candid–the quick grab.” Indeed, Aigner’s photographs of famous people are not posed, but natural and snapshot-like, catching the subject in an unguarded moment. Perhaps the most famous examples of Aigner’s candid style are his photographs of Albert Einstein.  In order to make Einstein feel relaxed around the camera, Aigner spent the day with the scientist, trying his best to blend into the background.  The result was Einstein’s favorite photo of himself, Einstein Facing the Universe.

aigner_lucien_310_1982Lucien Aigner, Winston Churchill learning abut his re-election to Parliament, 1935 (310.1982)

aigner_lucien_342_1982Lucien Aigner, Albert Einstein at work, Princeton, 1940 (342.1982)

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