Erich Hartmann’s signature style is enigmatic, unfinished and ambiguous. He was never without a camera loaded with black-and-white film and a small box of extra rolls, which he used to capture what intrigued him. Hartmann began his photographic career in New York City, which would become his home for the rest of his life, and documented the people, patterns and abstract images of this city that so fascinated him. Pictured here, a bike rider with Brooklyn Bridge in the distance.

Photographs should be symbolic rather than descriptive... they should suggest to the reader an internal rather than an external part of life

Erich Hartmann
© Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos

Born in Munich, Erich Hartmann was 16-years-old when he went with his family in 1938 to Albany, New York, as a refugee from Nazi Germany. At the end of the war, he moved to New York City, where he worked as an assistant to a portrait photographer and then as a freelancer.

Hartmann first became known to the wider public through his work for Fortune magazine in the 1950s. His poetic approach to science, industry and architecture shone through the photo essays Shapes of Sound, The Building of Saint Lawrence Seaway and The Deep North. T

hroughout his career, he pursued many long-term personal projects, and photographic interpretations with literary echoes. In his later years, he photographed the remains of the Nazi concentration camps, resulting in a book and exhibition, In the Camps. At the time of his death, he was engaged in a photo project, he called Music Everywhere.

© Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos

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