Louis Stettner

Louis Stettner is an American photographer born in New York in 1922 and best known for his photographs of  New York and Paris. He has photographed fleeting moments in those cities and captured the changes for more than 60 years. His subject matter is varied: people, playing children, buildings and objects in their ordinary, everyday life. His method is captured in his words: “I would take long daily walks with my camera, leaving myself open to whatever happened around me. I suppose I was driven by a great need and love to get close to the world around me.”

Stettner was a contempory of Brassaï who operated in a similar context and who inspired him. He said that Brassaï taught him to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

That he has an eye for the usually unnoticed and a sense of humour shows in this photograph of a car in New York. It reminds us of a face and the photo only shows the most important features. There is nothing in this photo that does not need to be there. The documentary value of this photo is that the content shows a beautiful designed car and that it snowed in New York in 1956.

Snowcar New York 1956

I am inspired by the way Stettner portrays the beauty and fun in the ordinariness and routine of the world around him. This shows in the photo “Foodism” I took in Amsterdam in 2009 and in the photos of the children playing. I do not know the people and children in the photos. My method is to go for a wander and let myself be surprised by what is around me, and that is how I came across these scenes. Although my photo “Children playing in Amsterdam” was taken 58 years later than Stettner’s photo taken in Paris, their form and content show great similarities.

Stettner – Children playing in Paris – 1951

Bertie Plaatsman – Children playing in Amsterdam 2009

Both photos show a boy and a girl playing in the street and both photos show action. In Stettner’s photo the boy has a scooter and the girl is spreading her arms and she is positioned slightly forward. In my photo the boy has a bike and the girl is also spreading her arms and leaning forward. The circular shape showing by the ripples in the water in my photo is similar to the gridlike structure that surrounds the tree in Stettner’s photo. To show that underneath the water is a similar gridlike structure I added my photo of the boy playing in Oosterpark below.

Bertie Plaatsman – Oosterpark Amsterdam 2005

The boy is clearly immersed in his play. Besides the cuteness however, the content is also about tension as the little bike the boy is standing on is not stable. It could easily move and the viewer is left wondering if the boy will be able to keep his balance.

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One Response to “Louis Stettner”

  1. Carmen Says:

    Beautiful photo Bertie, I love the rings in the puddle and such a universal way of having fun, which is a kid jumping in a puddle! The reflections are really nice, and the top line of houses frames the playful scene. Very nice!

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