Lucien Aigner

(1901 - 1999) American (b. Hungary)


Hungarian-born Lucien Aigner arrived at photography through his initial pursuit of a career in journalism. After earning a law degree in 1924, he worked as a reporter for the Az Est newspaper in Budapest; he learned photography only in order to enhance his ability to describe details and atmosphere in his reports. From 1927 to 1939 he was Paris bureau chief for the newspaper, and during that time he explored other avenues in photography and writing: he was an assistant to the photographer James Abbe, was editor-in-chief of Aral Press, and Paris correspondent for the London General Press. In addition, he did freelance photojournalism for Vu, L'Illustration, Picture Post (London), the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, the Münchner Illustrierte, and LIFE, to which he was under contract from 1936 to 1937. Feeling restless and constrained in Paris, he immigrated to the United States in 1939 and continued freelancing photojournalist for the Christian Science Monitor, Look, and the New York Times, and other periodicals. By 1948 he had produced the bulk of his photographic work; he turned his attention to duties as announcer, scriptwriter, and producer/director for Voice of America radio programs. Aigner retired from broadcasting in 1953 and moved to Massachusetts, where he opened a portrait studio.
Aigner, an elegant writer as well as photographer, is most often associated with his coverage of political events and personalities that led up to World War II in Europe. In that capacity, he was a pioneer of the small camera, along with others of his generation such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Erich Salomon; his work is exemplary of traditional European photojournalism. Aigner's personal work elegantly evokes the atmosphere of everyday life in pre-war Europe.
Lisa Hostetler
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 206.
Obituary in the New York Times, April 3, 1999
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