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DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum Opens Lucien Aigner Photo/Story

The DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum presents Lucien Aigner: Photo/Story on view Jan 29, 2011 – Apr 24, 2011.

Lucien Aigner (pronounced “aye-gner”) was a pioneering photojournalist in the 1920s and 1930s whose ‘photo stories’ (several prints on one theme with Aigner’s own accompanying text) place him in a unique and important role in the history of photojournalism. Aigner worked for many of the same periodicals as better-known peers such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, and André Kertész, but stood apart from this illustrious group because he wrote his own articles and captions—in addition to taking his pictures—at a time when few photographers did so.

Lucien Aigner, From the photo story, Paris Protects its Inhabitants Against Gas Attacks, published 1934 vintage gelatin silver print, 5 1/8 x 6 15/16 inches Courtesy of the Lucien Aigner Estate

Aigner was born in Hungary in 1901 and worked throughout Europe and the United States as a photojournalist for many photo-illustrated magazines. He moved to New York City to avoid the threat of World War II, and restarted his career in America in the 1940s by changing his visual style to cater to American editors’ tastes. He obtained work with important U.S. publications, but in the 1950s left New York for Great Barrington, Massachusetts, which effectively turned the spotlight off his photoreporting career. He opened a photo studio there, and although he enjoyed a brief resurgence of publicity later in life, Aigner remains under-recognized today. Like better-known colleagues such as Eisenstaedt and Capa, Aigner contributed significantly to the development of modern photojournalism and the acceptance of the candid news photograph. To the reading audience and magazine editors of the time, a quick shot of an important news event was better than no image at all. The visual quality of these photographs varied—at times gritty, grainy, or blurry—but they bore important, and sometimes the only, witness to a given situation. Because of the groundbreaking photographs captured by Aigner and his peers, such images are the norm in photojournalism today.

This exhibition is organized by guest curator Jennifer Uhrhane, an independent art consultant and curator.

DeCordova is grateful to Lucien Aigner’s children—Anne-Marie Aigner, John P. Aigner, Steven A. Aigner, and Katherine Aigner Collins—for their help and enthusiasm for preserving their father’s work and legacy.

Lucien Aigner: Photo/Story is funded, in part, by generous grants from the Lois and Richard England Family Foundation and the Land Fund.
To learn more about Lucien Aigner and his extraordinary career, view the documentary film Lucien Aigner: A Life with the Camera .

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