Louis Stettner, Pepe and Tony Series, 1956
Louis Stettner
Tony, «Pepe and Tony, Spanish Fishermen», Ibiza, Spain, 1956
Colecciones Fundación MAPFRE
© Louis Stettner Estate

Louis Stettner

From 6 June to 15 September 2024

Discover the exhibition

Louis Stettner (1922-2016) saw photography as an instrument of social change through which he celebrated life and showed the courage of men and women to face the goodness and adversities of existence with dignity.

His experiences as a photographer during World War II and his solid faith in humanity had a significant influence on his social and committed photography. His relationship with the Photo League, with photographers like Sid Grossman and Weegee, and his passion for literature and philosophy had a significant impact on his work. With this celebratory vision of the human condition as a common ground, Stettner’s work covers a multitude of subjects, from almost empty urban environments to bustling scenes of the New York subway, the routine of workers and laborers or the mountainous landscapes of the French Alpilles massif, already in his last period.

Organized chronologically, the exhibition presents more than 190 photographs, including some unpublished images and part of his almost unknown colour work, to offer, in short, a complete retrospective of his career and the recognition that his work deserves.

A photographer-writer

The 1950s and 1960s were characterized by a certain mistrust of photographers who wrote, possibly because they appeared to be in a position mid-way between the two disciplines. Stettner always engaged in literary activity as well as photography, writing not just about himself but also about many of his artist friends and colleagues and not only those whose work he admired. His texts were to some degree comparable to his photographs: abrupt, spontaneous, and impetuous. In the 1970s he wrote a monthly column in the magazine Camera 35 published by the Photo League, initially with the title “Speaking Out” and subsequently “A Humanist View”. Although he was a prolific writer it was not until the late date of 1979 that he published one of his photographic series in the book Sur le tas, depicting men and women at work.


One of the key figures for Stettner’s work was Walt Whitman, with whom he shared the belief that it was possible to find the beauty of the world in everyday, commonplace things. Leaves of Grass almost became his Bible and he carried a copy with him at all times. In his own words: “Whitman’s faith in his fellow human beings, his grasp of the entire life cycle and death, and his cosmic vision has been contagious to me. […] celebrates men and women and is not afraid, which is perhaps one of the reasons why I have never stopped photographing in the streets, wherever human beings are.”


KBr Fundación MAPFRE
Avenida Litoral, 30 – 08005 Barcelona


Monday (except holidays): Closed
Tuesday to Sunday (and holidays): from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

«I found them amidst a grinding noise, dirt, fumes and danger of accidents, to be very sensitive, innately human with a wonderful grasp of organization and immediate reality. They have always made me feel welcome and at ease … my time in the factories was one of the most meaningful experiences in my life».

Louis Stettner