Louis Stettner ( born in 1922 ) is a celebrated American photographer whose work includes iconic images of Paris and New York. He was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York but moved to Paris in the 1950s, where he now lives permanently with his family.
Louis has photographed Paris and New York for over 60 years, capturing the changes in the people, culture, and architecture of both cities. Using both black and white and color images, his work documents fleeting moments in the life of the cities, moments that often cannot be recaptured. Stettner has documented the architectural and cultural evolution of Paris and New York, making his archive of thousands of images an important resource. Few photographers have such an extensive archive of both cities, one that includes historic images of each city’s most celebrated landmarks and the daily lives of its citizens.
His work has an unforced naturalistic quality to it, as he sought to capture the ordinary, every day lives of his subjects. He was particularly interested in documenting the lives of the working class in each city and he demonstrates much sensitivity in this endeavor, photographing them with great dignity. A limited amount of his work is devoted to still life and landscape images. Additionally, his paintings and sculptures tend to be abstract and in sharp contrast to his clear, vivid photographic images.
As a teenager and young man, Stettner was a regular visitor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to explore its photographic prints collection. His first camera was a wooden view camera and today he still shoots with film rather than moving to digital images. Stettner studied and taught at the Photo League until he went to Paris after the Second World War. He received his Bachelor of Arts, Photography & Cinema I.D.H.E.C. at Paris University. Throughout his life, he has gotten to know and work with many great photographers. Stettner visited Stieglitz’s gallery – An American Place – but was too scared to speak to him. After sending Stieglitz photographs, Stieglitz sent him a handwritten letter of thanks which Stettner cherished. A little later, Stettner visited Paul Strand, who supported his artistic endeavors and encouraged him to continue photography. Later in Paris the two men became friends.
Now in his 80s, he continues to photograph with great energy. Stettner also spends significant time sculpting and painting, as well as mixing his work and “painting” on some of his photographic images.