The estate has over 5000 original photographs printed by Lou Bernstein. Collectors or museums who are interested in acquiring or exhibiting Lou’s photographs should contact Irwin Bernstein. During the last five decades more than 160 of Lou’s photographs have been acquired for the permanent collections and archives of The Museum of Modern Art, Museum Chateau de Clervaux, The International Center of Photography, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Columbus Museum of Art, Center for Creative Photography, Spencer Museum of Art and the Jewish Museum, please contact us.
The Lou Bernstein Estate
The Estate of Lou Bernstein is comprised of many important elements, relative to his six and a half decade diverse photographic legacy, all of which is outlined in this document.

This web site opens a dialogue, for any interest you or your institution may have, regarding exhibiting, or acquiring any part, or all of the diverse photographic legacy left by this legendary Photo League photographer, lecturer, teacher, critic and author, Lou Bernstein who passed August 2005.

Lou’s photographic career precedes itself. He has been exhibited and published continually for over half a century worldwide.

Lou, one of the Charter Members of the controversial “Photo League”, a photographic organization active in New York from 1936 through the early 1950’s. Its members included almost every prominent photographer and photo journalist in America from the late 1930’s through the late 1940’s.

A true photographic artist, photographing for his own pleasure of his art, a pleasure that has been recognized and embraced by people all over the world.

Lou’s dedication to photography endured unflagging, and continued without any intermission, seemingly without end. Photography was his personal expression of art. It was his calling, mission and passion throughout his lifetime. Faithful to his art, he wanted to photograph images he found were important moments in life, as he experienced them, never knowing where he would encounter it, capturing the moments of art within every day life.

Lou, considered by most as one of the prominent great photographers of his generation, known as “The Photographer’s Photographer”. He pursued and achieved a body of work so diverse he created a vast photographic legacy documenting the “Universal Landscape of Life”. Personally printing more than 5000 original silver prints, signed and dated over his lifetime. Images he selected from his immense negative file that encompasses over 30,000 unseen and unknown other treasures, yet to be discovered. He is represented in all the major museum collections of America as well as aboard.

Bernstein possessed strong opinionated verbal skills, and had the ability to critically analyze, teach, articulate and communicate his aesthetic photographic philosophy of individualistic intellectual property, to photographic artists, enthusiasts and aficionados who desired to pursue and understand his approach to the elements and emotional involvement one experiences in capturing the moment, Life is Art.

He was constantly invited to lecture, judge and critique photographic workshops, was an educator at two college level public institutions in New York, conducted private and group classes in New York City, in addition to writing a monthly article titled “Critique”, for Camera 35, for a duration of four years, until illness forced him to curtail the feature.

Always the town crier when it came to photography, he mentored innumerable photographic students, professionals and enthusiasts who sought him out for advice, direction and assistance. He gave back for the encouragement of others, who shared his passion and interest in photography.

The landscape of life was Lou’s venues, be it people, children, animals, mammals, sea life, insects, flowers, entertainers, dancers, musicians, still life, gargoyles, sculpture, architecture, religion, etc., photographed from where he called “His own little backyard of plenty”, New York City and its five boroughs.

My decision made years ago to preserve, not bastardize the volume and diversity of his life’s body of work, included not engaging in producing duplicate silver print images, utilizing his original vintage negative file for the purpose of sale, which would affect overwhelmingly the stature of his life’s original legacy. Lou Bernstein’s lifetime photographic legacy is undisturbed.

His photographs are currently available at Heritage Auction Galleries, Christie’s and other auction houses. His work has always been pursued by galleries, museums for exhibitions, magazines articles, book publishers and by The New York Times, Sunday Edition Photography Editor and friend, Jack Deschin since the 1940’s.

However, there are exceptions. Bernstein’s work has been part of the following significant permanent collections and archives for many years.

A: The Museum of Modern Art, “The Family of Man”, New York 1955, Edward Steichen’s world renowned photographic master piece exhibition. Steichen selected two of Lou’s photographic images to be included in ”The Family of Man”, permanent collection and archives, while Director of Photography at MOMA. The original “Family of Man” exhibition has been shown in six continents.

B: The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1959, Edward Steichen acquired 10 photographic images, under his tenure as Director of Photography, for the MOMA Permanent Collection and Archives.

C: The Castle of Clervaux Museum, Luxembourg, 1964 “The Family of Man”, Permanent Landmark Collection gifted to the Luxembourg Government by MOMA. It was exhibited in 1966 at the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg City, relocated to The Castle of Clervaux in 1974 exhibited only in part till 1989. While the Castle was being restored, from 1989 through 1991. “The Family Man” collection had traveled on its last journey from 1993 through 1994 through the courtesy of the Government of Luxembourg to Toulouse, France, Tokyo, and Hiroshima, Japan. Returning to its premier elegance at The Castle of Clervaux, in 1994, where it remains permanently opened to the public to experience. We have been recently contacted by The Castle of Clervaux, for permission to utilize one of the two images Lou has in “The Family of Man” exhibit, for promotion purposes in Italy, Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland. The Castle of Clervaux maintains the last known complete permanent collection of “The Family of Man”, which Steichen created while Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, 1955.

D: The International Center of Photography, New York 1992, Cornell Capa, Founder, Executive Director & Curator, acquired Seventy Three (73) photographic images for their permanent collection and archives.

E: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, 1980. The Wolf Associates, Houston, Texas donated 67 photographic images of Lou Bernstein’s works to the receivership of Anne Wilkes Tucker, Photographic Curator to their permanent collection and archives.

F: The University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, Arizona 1978 W. Eugene Smith donated three (3) vintage silver photographic images of Lou Bernstein’s, which were a part of W. Eugene Smith’s private collection. Britt Salvesen, Curator of the Center for Creative Photography.

G: The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, 2003, acquired a private collection, from Mr. Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, Ill. which included three (3) photographic images of Bernstein’s for their permanent collection and archives. Curator Ms. Catherine Evans.

H: University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas, Missouri, 1970, permanent collection and archives.

I: The Jewish Museum, New York City, 2008, Mr. Howard Greenberg donated two vintage silver photographic images, of Lou Bernstein’s, for their permanent collection. and archives. Curator, Mr. Mason Klein.

Less than 5% of Lou Bernstein’s work has been given to close friends or donated to organizations for fund raising during his lifetime. The majority of the collection currently exists in its original form.

We are presently searching museums and foundations to identify other permanent collections in which he is honored to be included in, as well as those interested in exhibiting his photography. Lou’s exhibitions always attracted high interest, and stimulated attendance of the photography lovers.

Many important items are an integral part of this legacy, to name a few, legal transfer of ownership copyrights, should the legacy be acquired outright, more than 5000 original silver prints, printed, signed and dated by Lou, personally over his lifetime. Also included is his vast untouched negative file, teaching and lecturing tapes of private sessions and workshops, video interviews, cameras, his Leitz Valoy II 35MM enlarger, which he utilized for over half a century, miscellaneous equipment, books, articles, original letters, documents of high importance, pertinent to the artists’ recognition during his lifetime, from dignitaries like Edward Steichen, W. Eugene Smith, Wynn Bullock and others, all with original signatures.

An important part of the photographic legacy, left by Lou Bernstein, include original images of complete collections, that have been acquired and are part of the permanent collections and archives of, The Museum of Modern Art, NY, 1955,  1959. The Museum Chateau de Clervaux, Luxembourg, 1964. The International Center of Photography, NY, 1992. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX, 1980. The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH, 2003. The University of Arizona, Center for Creative Photography, Tucson,1978.University of Kansas, Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas, 1970, and The Jewish Museum,NY,2008.Cumulatively, there are more than 160 Photographs, of Lou Bernstein’s, in these prominent institutions.

Consider the possibilities, what would a truly recognized photographic artists’ full life legacy of invaluable art be if one archive, institution or museum possessed the astute foresight to acquire this vast diverse “Time Capsule” of a career that has spanned more than six and a half decades.

The estate has prepared a complete volume for your review on Lou Bernstein’s six and a half decade photographic legacy, and for the purposes stated earlier in this letter, and for the intention to attract a major Photographic Arts Publisher, interested in producing a one of a kind collectable book, incorporating, Lou’s philosophic, aesthetic teaching principals, that are recorded in his own words. This important verbal material can be recorded on a CD as well as being included with a text section of the publication, accompanied by a diverse number of images in Lou’s Photographic Legacy, along with a limited edition, estate approved photograph, packaged in a slip case, library edition presentation.

After you have reviewed the information of Lou’s Legacy and you are interested in opening a dialogue, please contact me.

Irwin Bernstein


LOU BERNSTEIN Age 94, Born 1911, Died 2005

Lou Bernstein. The Photographer's Photographer!
Considered by many the outstanding Photo-Artist of his generation, Lou Bernstein is
represented in all Major Museum Collections of America, as well as abroad.
Bernstein was educated in New York as an Architectural Draftsman, but never entered his
educational vocation because of the depressed times.

Photography was Lou Bernstein's hobby as it started out, when he was given his first camera in
1936, when his first child was born.
Joined the Brooklyn Camera Club and later became one of the charter members of the
controversial Photo League, founded by Sid Grossman, active in New York from 1936 through
the early 1950's. Their members and guests included almost every prominent photographer in
America from the 1930's to the 1940's

The progression was a natural evolution of Lou's love and passion for photography. His desire
to learn, absorb and digest all the knowledge he could find, experience through trial and error,
directed him on a journey of continual learning, seeking out the shakers and movers of
photography in New York, then considered the capital of the photographic world.

He had the appetite of an omnivore one who craved digested harsh criticism. His belief was it
created controversial discourse, emotional disturbance, attention and much discussion. The end
result, an inner intensified flame and desire to pursue and reach a new plateau of creativity and
insight, to photograph with greater sensitivity.

He believed every photographer needed the best criticism they could receive, not only for their
work, but about themselves as well.

Bernstein's articulations about photography made him one of the most sought after lecturer from
the 1950*s through the 1990's.

Lou's intensity in the analytic process is highly critical and serious. He reaches down to the
depths of human emotions. Bernstein's verbal interchange of expression, thought, includes
aesthetical and philosophical factors, self analysis, critique and awareness.

Bernstein created and was the author of an original bi-monthly article for Camera 35 Magazine,
titled "Critique" The feature discussed the merits of subject-matter, critical analysis, emotional
involvement, time, space, composition and print quality. Subscriber's responses were enormous.
Lou continued to write this forum for a period of four years, till illness forced an unexpected
Lou became known as '"The Photographer's", by many of his close friends and contemporaries,
such as: Eugene W. Smith, Wynn Bullock, Sid Grossman, Ralph Harterslay, Lizette Model and
Edward Stiechen.

Lou was on the faculty of the New York Phoenix School of Design, New York and Cooper
Union in New York City, where he replaced Eugene \V. Smith at his request.He conducted
numerous private and group photographic workshops, lectured extensively, and was perpetually
pursued and invited to express his perceptive concepts on his aesthetics of photography.

In April 1972. was a participating critic along with other recognized dignitaries and educators of
photography, representing The Society for Photographic Education, New York Region, to
contribute to "Critique 72", at the New School for Social Research, New York.
Eugene W. Smith, Wynn Bullock and Eli Siegel, recommended Lou for a Guggenheim
Fellowship Award, but never was the recipient of the award.

In 1981, was granted funding for "A Retrospective Look" at the International Center of
Photography, by the National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, D.C. In 1992, The
International Center of Photography, honored Lou with a second exhibition "Five Decades of
Photography" and included in his works in its Permanent Collection and Archives, and also
invited him to lecture on his aesthetic approach to Photography as an Art.

Bernstein's photographs are in the Permanent Collections and Archives of The Museum of
Modern Art. New York. The International Center of Photography. New York. The Museum of
Fine Arts. Houston, Texas and The Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio, to name a
significant few.

His work has received awards, been exhibited globally, since the 1940s reviewed in
newspapers, published in photographic books, magazines. Lou is listed in the Photographic
His photographic artistry has been consistently acclaimed worldwide, and is a renowned and
recognized teacher, author, critic, lecturer in his own right.

Throughout his long career and love for photography, Lou has gratuitously served as a mentor,
enlightened hundreds of individuals who have approached him with their interest in
photography. Conveying all the elements and knowledge he has acquired during his lifetime
In a 1955 interview with writer Daniel Dixon, for an article about himself and his photography,
for Modern Photography Magazine, Bernstein made this statement. "Usually", he say, "It's the
photographer, not the material that wears out first. Me, I'm still a long way from being worn
out. Frankly, I think there's as much variety in my own backyard as there is in a thousand miles
of travel. Love, hate, joy, grief, comedy, tragedy-it's all right here," he said. "All you have to do
is look for it. Why go any further?"

In his pursuit to expand his personal discourse of artistic expression, Lou discovered yet another
world, one of animals, mammals and The Under Sea Society, which fascinated him. Lou
devoted several of his later years photographing them.

Experts have described them as short lived phenomenon, one would have to wait hundreds of
hours for them to occur, and experienced.

His Photographic Legacy spans more than Six and a Half Decades, He has documented more
than thirty-five diverse subjects that preserve Life as Art, usually taken for granted and over-
looked within the vast social fabric of our Universe.

Lou Bernstein pursued photography for over 65 years as his own personal expression of Art.
Photography was his Life, and he spent his life photographing life.

Lou Bernstein (1911 - 2005)