by Ellen McBreen
Galerie Claude Samuel - Paris
Fred Stein knew the demands of the photojournalist’s art. “One moment is all you have,” he wrote. And as this exhibition of vintage and modern prints of 1930s Paris and 1940s New York vividly demonstrated, Stein had a rare ability to capture that moment.
Driven out of his native Germany by the Nazis, Stein fled with his wife to Paris, bringing a wedding present that would prove decisive: a 35mm Leica camera. Stein used the new handheld technology to document life on the streets of Paris in images brimming with detail, at once spontaneous and crisply composed. In his bird’s-eye view of a Popular Front march, for example, the raised arm of a worker watching from a rooftop echoes the gesture of a fastidious waiter offering a glass of the a la mode St. Raphael aperitif, depicted on a billboard across the street.
He expressed his warm regard for the people and landscape of his newly adopted city by paying poetic homage to such now classic landmarks as the Empire State, Flatiron, and RCA Buildings. He shot them from the perspective of a man on the street, dwarfed by the sleek, towering forms. The sense of drama in his human and architectural subjects, however, never feels forced. Stein may have only had one moment, but he was always patient enough to wait for it.