Louis Stettner (born November 7, 1922) is an American photographer of the 20th century whose work includes streetscapes, portraits and architectural images of New York and Paris. His work has been highly regarded because of its humanity and capturing the life and reality of the people and streets of both cities. Since 1947, Stettner has photographed the changes in the people, culture, and architecture of both cities.
At the age of 12 Louis Stettner was already roaming the streets with a photographic eye, and realized early on that the camera could not only serve as an extension of his eye, but also as a medium to express his perceptions and emotions. Born and raised in Brooklyn, it was the exuberant and vibrant Manhattan that cast a spell over the young man. Yet it was in Paris during the post-war years of 1946-1951 that Louis Stettner ultimately became a photographer. He fell in love with the city and its inhabitants, still marked by the austerity and deprivations of the war and German occupation. The aromas of the neighborhoods, the quiet alcoves on the banks of the Seine, and the recent history all around inspired him as much as the Parisians themselves, that came together in the cafés, debated over art, and welcomed him into their circles. Stettner met Brassaï, Édouard Boubat, Willy Ronis, Izis, Robert Doisneau and other photographers, studied film at the University of Paris, and in 1949 exhibited his work for the first time in the “Salon des Indépendants” at the National Library.
In 1951 Stettner moved back to New York and worked among the people, photographing kids playing, the cool guys, the hurried steps through clouds of steam, dwelling in the rain, waiting at the street corner. It is a vision that has importance in the way it combines intellect and sensuality. The greatest beauty is often found in the quiet moments, in a face, a composition, a living detail. In the old Penn Station a little girl is immersed in her game with the light playing across the floor. In Central Park there sits a young couple on a stone bench, Stettner only photographs the flirtation of their arms and legs. With a shot of the Twin Towers we sense the cry of seagulls and the smell of salt water. On a stoop in Battery Park sits a lone black teenager, with a shadowy outline of the Statue of Liberty in the background, a view of New York between reality and myth.