OVER 100 PHOTOGRAPHS (with some duplicates) from the archives of the Wide World Photos (later the Associated Press) documenting Einstein’s life. Taken together, the collection – photographs with individual explanatory captions – serves as a biography in pictures through the eyes of the press and is a valuable primary source in understanding how the public’s perception of Einstein was shaped by the media..
Albert Einstein’s fame far exceeded what one could ever have expected for a scientist – for much of his adult life he was one of the most recognized people in the world and, astonishingly, his fame has only grown since his death in 1955. How did this come to be?
Einstein had the luck (or misfortune) of having a career that coincided almost perfectly with the rise of mass media, particularly in the form of newspapers, magazines, and photojournalism in general. With his revolutionary theories, bohemian attire, expressive face, and witty quotes, Einstein became the perfect subject for the new media. The public adored Einstein and because of his status as a “genius” nearly everything he did could be a source of possible interest.
The collection contains dozens of photographs covering serious events – Einstein speaking on the horrors of war or oppression, meeting with other scientists or dignitaries, teaching or working in his study – but there are nearly as many photographs of Einstein involved in recreational activities, like sailing, playing the violin, sight-seeing, or celebrating his birthday. The striking thing about the included captions is that there is the same tone of excitement and even wonder, in watching Einstein do anything – everything, the media seem to be telling us, can be important if it involves Albert Einstein.
Through this collection, we can understand what the public saw – and, perhaps, wanted to see – in Einstein, and how the popular image of Einstein was created — an image of Einstein that we still hold today.
Later in life, Einstein said that he felt his real job was as a photographer’s model, because the most celebrated photographers of the day sought him out as their subject. This archive does indeed contain some of these famous posed photos of Einstein, but the collection is dominated by candid photos many of which have rarely been reproduced.
Over 100 silver gelatin prints (102 by our count, although with some duplicates), the images measuring approximately 8 1/2x6 1/2 inches (21.6x16.5 cm.), and slightly smaller, most with a Wide World Pictures or Associated Press stamp on verso and with a press captions on loose slips. Photos from Einstein’s life from 1919-1955. A few photos with edgewear, but generally very good condition.
Price: $23,500 .