Reception: Thursday, May 10, 6-8pm
Virtuoso of the Leica, Fred Stein is a largely unsung master of a generation of photographers whose talents were
swept across Europe by the dark geopolitical events of the 1930s and 1940s, only to land in the safe haven of New
York. Captured with verve and wit, an eye for the poignant as well as the surprising, Steinʼs images of the urban life
and iconic portraits of the luminaries of the 20th century are ripe for rediscovery. With a selection of vintage prints
spanning over three decades, Fred Stein: Paris / New York will introduce 21st century audiences to the range of the
Born in Dresden, Stein and his wife immigrated to Paris in 1933 under the pressure of increasingly untenable
conditions in Germany and his being unable to pursue his career as a lawyer. It was in the French capital that Stein
realized his vocation as a photographer. Taking to the streets of Paris with a Leica that the couple bought for each
other as a joint wedding present, Stein made images steeped in the poetry of the city – every bit the equal of his
contemporaries Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ilse Bing, and André Kertész. Whether depicting a lonely figure along the
quays of the Seine or the abstract plays of light on a cobblestoned intersection filtered through the “new vision” of the
era, the photographs from the 1930s show how sensitively attuned Stein was to the rhythms of the metropolis.
Displaying both the isolation of those down on their luck as well as moments of spontaneous warmth and community,
Steinʼs humanistic outlook found initial expression in the intellectually rich milieu of pre-war France.
Such inclinations would go on to serve Stein well in New York, where his talents as a documentarian found a place
with the Photo League. Having escaped an internment camp for enemy aliens in wartime France and miraculously
reuniting with his family in Marseille, in 1941 Stein found passage on a steamer bound for the United States. There
he built a successful studio practice specializing in portraiture, while also continuing his independent work in the
streets of the city. Steinʼs characteristic humor and sympathy manifested in photos infused with an increasingly
sophisticated approach to the atmospherics of lighting and tonality. As befits a professional portraitist, Stein
relentlessly sought to the capture the human face of his time.
The photographs of Fred Stein (1909-1967) were extensively published in the illustrated magazines, newspapers,
and books of his time. This is the first solo exhibition of Steinʼs work at Robert Mann Gallery since the gallery began
representing the estate last year. Last fall the Musée du Montparnasse in Paris exhibited a selection of his portraits of
exiled artists and intellectuals; an accompanying catalogue of works was also published on the occasion. Steinʼs
photographs are represented in the collections of the International Center of Photography, New York; the Center for
Creative Photography, Tucson; the Jewish Museum, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the
National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.
View Fred Stein: Paris / New York online at www.robertmann.com beginning May 10, 2012.