LUCIEN AIGNER: Journalist, Photographer, Favorite Son
- Showcase of over 50 of Aigner’s most iconic photos and backstories
(some never seen by the public)
- Special display of the Leica cameras similar to those used by Aigner.
Saint James Place
352 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA
(Next to Town Hall)
June 25 - July 8, 2018
Free to the public
After traveling the world and taking photos of historic events and major world leaders and celebrities, Lucien Aigner – considered one of the leading pioneers of modern photography because of his early use of the small-format camera, the Leica - settled in Great Barrington, MA in the mid-1950’s, where he lived til he died in 1999. At his death, his collection of images, negatives and journals numbered nearly 100,000. The Aigner Collection was recently sold to Yale University (the Beinecke Library and the Andover, MA Gallery), so this exhibit – “LUCIEN AIGNER: Journalist, Photographer, Favorite Son” in Great Barrington, MA from June 25 – July 8, 2018 could be a rare last public look at Aigner’s most iconic photographs from the personal collections of his family.
Best known for his “baggy pants Einstein”, (about which Einstein wrote to Aigner in German “Sometimes when focused on numbers your pants fall down!”), Aigner’s role in the evolution of photography has been largely overlooked by historians who have focused more on Eisenstadt, Capa, Salomon, Kertesz, and Cartier-Brisson and higher profile photographers. In fact, according to the experts, including Ed Schwartzreich of the Leica Historical Society of America (LHSA), since the then-new Leica camera was somewhat revolutionary, those using the new Leicas in the early 1900’s had to have “courage, since photographers had to get close to their subjects; technical precision, since it took some fiddling to set it up once they took the camera out of their pocket; and, had to know how to work with tiny negatives, which was challenging since this was a new medium. Aigner seems to have mastered all of this with his early use of the Leica.”
"You don’t get the backstories from other photographers – Aigner considered them to be as important as the images themselves."
- Anne Marie Aigner, Daughter
But, since Aigner considered himself more a journalist than a photographer, the backstories of his photos are as important and historic as the images themselves and his role in the evolution of modern photography. Says his daughter, Anne-Marie Aigner, who is producing the exhibit, “When Aigner was photographing Mussolini at the train station, how did he get the shot? What were the conditions? When Aigner thought Mussolini’s security guards spotted him with his little Leica camera, what happened? “ Adds Anne-Marie, “And, the whole story behind the Einstein shoot is fascinating. You don’t get the backstories from other photographers – Aigner considered them to be as important as the images themselves.”
In fact, when Aigner settled in the Berkshires, he stored his suitcase filled with negatives (another great story about how it was “saved” after Aigner and his wife and baby left Europe in 1939 for America) – and didn’t open it again til the mid-70’s, when he approached the Eastman House to determine whether his negatives were important. The answer was, of course, an unqualified “YES”. Aigner spent the rest of his life exhibiting around the world, always returning to his humble home in Great Barrington, MA, to work in his dark room to produce prints of Hitler, Paris street scenes, Einstein and thousands of other images shot in the years between the two World Wars and later, with a small format camera that allowed this diminutive man (He was only about 5’4”!) to inconspicuously capture historic moments that others could not with their bulky tripod cameras.
“LUCIEN AIGNER: Journalist, Photographer, Favorite Son”, the free-to-the-public exhibit to be held at Saint James Place from June 25 – July 8th, 2018 will showcase over 50 of Aigner’s most iconic photos and backstories – some never seen by the public -- as well as a special display of the Leica cameras similar to those used by Aigner. The LHSA’s Schwartzreich will be available at the VIP Reception to be held on Sunday evening, June 24, 2018.
For more information and for media inquiries/needs, please contact Anne-Marie Aigner, 617-254-9500 or email Annemarie@aignerprenskymarketing.com.
Aigner's best known photo
'Einstein Baggy Pants'
Aigner with the photo of Mussolini that became the cover of newsweek magazine