Signed and Dated Modern Line Drawing Oil Painting of Nude Man.
Louis Stettner (November 7, 1922 – October 13, 2016) 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. Stettner also spent significant time sculpting and painting, as well as mixing his work and “painting” on some of his photographic images. He continued to photograph New York and Paris up until his death.
Louis Stettner was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Austrian immigrant parents 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 decides to be a photographer after seeing photographs by Alfred Stieglitz and Weegee. 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 he joined the Photo League in New York. Through the Photo League’s exhibits, Stettner was further exposed to the work of Weegee, Edward Weston, and Lewis Hine. 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, Brassaï, Edouard Boubat, Izis Bidermanas, 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 significant influence on his work. In 1949, Stettner had his first exhibition at the "Salon des Indépendants" at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
In 1951 his work was included in the famous Subjektive Fotografie exhibition in Germany. During the 1950s he free-lanced 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 social realist 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 silver gelatin prints in fine images, including: Aubervilliers, Brooklyn Promenade, Twin Towers with Sea Gull, Penn Station, and the Statue of Liberty, Battery Park. He also worked in oil paint and bronze cast sculpture as well as wood carved sculpture with an African American look to them. Many nudes but not particularly erotic.Throughout his prolific career, Louis Stettner, a force of nature with a Whitmaneque passion for life and the inquiring mind of a philosopher, interacted with and was befriended by many of the most significant photographers of the Humanist school of photography of the 20th Century: Stieglitz, Brassai, Strand, Weegee, Cartier-Bresson, Sid Grossman, Lou Faurer, Lisette Model, Boubat, among many others. The encouragement of fellow photographers, whose reflections and critiques of his work Stettner profoundly valued, was to reinforce a life-time passion, that of grasping the significance of life and reality around him.
Stettner also 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.
Museums containing work by Stettner
Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland
International Center of Photography, New York
Jewish Museum Berlin
Los Angeles County Museum of Art - LACMA, Los Angeles
Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
Merrill Lynch Art Collection, New York
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Microsoft Art Collection, Seattle
Montana Museum of Art and Culture, Missoula, MT
Carnavalet Museum, Paris
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Musée de l'Élysée, Lausanne
Musée de l'Elysee, Paris
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of the City of New York
New Britain Museum of American Art New Britain, Connecticut
New York Public Library, New York
San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Whitney Museum of Art, New York
Louis Stettner, Limelight Gallery, August 17-September 27 1954
What's New: Recent Acquisitions in Photography. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York,
Star Spangled Spirit. Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, 2002
City Streets. Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Fla, 2003
Photographies récentes par Louis Stettner. Galerie Marion Meyer, Paris, 2003
Full House: Views from the Whitney's Collection at 75. Whitney Museum of American Art
Louis Stettner: Photographien. Camera Work, Berlin, 2006
Louis Stettner: Streetwise. Bonni Benrubi Gallery, New York, 2006
Fotografía Contemporánea. Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, 2006
Selected books and portfolios
Paris-New York. Paris, New York: Two Cities Publications, 1949. Portfolio of 10 photographs, introduction by Brassaï.
Workers: Twenty-Four Photographs. New York: Stettner Studio, 1974. Portfolio.
Women. New York: Stettner Studio, 1976. Portfolio of 22 photographs.
Sur le Tas. Paris: Cercle d'Art, 1979. ISBN 2-7022-0129-6. Book of 156 photographs, introduction by François Cavanna. (in French)
Early Joys: Photographs from 1947-1972. New York: Janet Iffland, 1987. Introduction by Brassaï.
Louis Stettner: New York, 1994. Kempen, New York: Te Neues; Paris, Flammarion, 1993.
Sous le ciel de Paris. Paris: Parigramme, 1994. Introduction by François Cavanna. (in French)
Louis Stettner's New York, 1950s–1990s. New York: Rizzoli, 1997. ISBN 0-8478-2004-1.
Louis Stettner: American photographer, Paris: Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum Aachen, 11. Januar-9. März 1997. Aachen: Museum der Stadt Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig Museum, 1997.
Louis Stettner. Collection Photo Poche. Paris: Nathan, 1998. Introduction by François Bernheim.
Louis Stettner: Wisdom Cries Out in the Streets. Paris: Flammarion, 1999.
Louis Stettner: Sophisme, photographies 1990–1999. Neuchâtel: Ides et Callendes, 1999. Text by Michèle Auer.
Chile en el corazón. Santiago: LOM, 2001.
elected essays and books by Louis Stettner
De "l'objectivité nouvelle" à la "photographie subjective". Antwerp: Gevaert, 1953.
35 mm Photography, editor. U.S. Camera Co., 1956.
History of the Nude in American Photography, editor. New York: Fawcett, 1966.
Weegee the Famous, editor. New York: Knopf, 1978.
"Cézanne's Apple and the Photo League," Aperture, no. 112 (Fall 1988), pp. 14–35