Augustusplatz 10, 04109 Leipzig, Germany
The modern building of Leipzig University where Fred Stein obtained his diploma in law in 1933.
One of Fred Stein’s untitled pictures sold at Swann Auction Galleries for $2,530 in 2001.
Fred Stein lost his father at the age of six. His mother did her best to give her son all the opportunities to develop him intellectually and artistically. The boy attended the best schools, was a frequent visitor of Dresden museums, and read a lot. A very clever and curious child, Stein demonstrated good academic performance.
As a teenager, he became a member of the Socialist Youth Movement. Stein quickly perceived the danger of Adolf Hitler’s policy and joined the anti-Nazi movement. He lectured about the threat and distributed anti-Nazi stuff. With an intention to devote his professional life to public defense, Fred Stein entered Leipzig University where he received a diploma in law in 1933.
Fred Stein planned to begin his career as a lawyer. To achieve his goal, he practiced law working at the State Prosecutors Office of Dresden for a while. Unfortunately, the Nazi government didn’t admit him to the bar as he was Jewish by “racial and political reasons”. Even when the power of Nazi authorities strengthened Stein stayed in Dresden taking an active part in the anti-fascist movement. He fled to Paris with his wife in the middle of 1930s.
While in the capital, the couple was surrounded by expatriate artists, philosophers, scientists and other representatives of intelligentsia whom they often sheltered in their apartment. Having no permission to work as a lawyer, Stein began to take photos with the small Leica camera he had received from his beloved as a wedding present. The simple hobby soon turned into the real passion which later became the devotion for the rest of his life. To improve his skill in the field, Fred Stein walked around Paris streets capturing the tiny moments of beauty and hope hidden under the mask of external despair. He avidly studied every photo book he could find.
After France joined the war against Germany in 1939, Fred Stein and his wife, with a minimum of things, managed to leave the country. They came to the United States and settled down in New York City on which streets Stein continued his activity as a street photographer.
The dynamism of the city stimulated his creative mind and he applied the medium-format Rolleiflex to his pictures. In addition to taking photos within the multiple cultural communities of the capital, Stein founded a studio where he portrayed lots of eminent personalities of the time, like Marc Chagall, Norman Mailer, Salvador Dali, Hermann Hesse, and others.
Fred Stein rarely worked on commission taking for the subjects people and scenes he was personally interested in. He then distributed his photos among the publishers, magazines, and newspapers being a self-promoter. Stein had many solo exhibitions during his lifetime, frequently organized lectures, and published a number of books.
Le Rêve (Dream)
Fish Platter, Brittany
Joie (Joy), France
Fisherman with Net
Popular Front, Paris
Old Man With Cane
Children Reading the Newspaper
Car on Bridge
Child on Steps
Boy with Violin
Reading in Grass
Man in Pushcart
Central Park Snow
Post No Bills
Manhattan through Brooklyn Bridge
Gypsy Rose Lee
Fred Stein deprecated Communism. Instead, he believed in the rights of the personality and in social equality.
Fred Stein created his pictures quickly, without any presets or postproduction. A social observer, he never used artificial light and dramatic effects trying to recapture the real atmosphere and not his own view of a scene or personality. The main principle of his photo portraits was to know as more as possible about the activity of a model before taking a picture of a person.
Quotations: "One second is all you have. Like a hunter in search of a target, you look for the one sign that is more characteristic than all the others... the photographer has only one chance, and that one as brief as a split second."
Fred Stein was a member of the New York Photo League.
Fred Stein had a strong belief in humanity that is clear in his photos.
Quotes from others about the person
"I first met Fred when we were both refugees fighting the totalitarian Nazi regime through the rather poor means we had. In his time he was very much in the avantgarde, a brilliant photographer inspired by his quest for justice and his concern for truth so clearly reflected in his photographs. He truly was a man of vision, and his choice of people and subjects is the obvious proof of it."
Fred Stein married Liselotte (Lilo) Salzburg whose father was a prominent physician on August 1933. The family produced one son named Peter. He followed the artistic steps of his father and became a cinematographer.