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Born in Munich, Eric Hartmann moved to New York City at the end of WWII. It was here that he found his photographic voice. Though he regularly photographed people, he also took great joy in photographing their absence. Hartmann said, “I want to photograph objects in ways they have never been seen before.” Here, the ghost of a patron at Limelight coffee house and gallery in Greenwich Village in 1954.

I am as much attracted to the evidence of human presence and efforts, whether good or evil, as I am to the people themselves

Erich Hartmann
© Erich Hartmann | Magnum Photos

Erich Hartmann was 16-years-old when he went with his family in 1938 to Albany, New York, as a refugee from Nazi Germany.

The only English speaker in the family, he worked in a textile mill, attending evening high school and later taking night courses at Siena College. Hartmann enlisted in the US Army, serving in England, France, Belgium and 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. Throughout 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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