Erich Lessing

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Erich Lessing (born July 13, 1923) is an Austrian photographer associated with Magnum Photos.[1]


Lessing was born in Vienna to a dentist and a concert pianist into a Jewish family. Before completing high school he was forced to leave Austria in 1939 because of Hitler's rise to power. He immigrated to the British Mandate for Palestine (now Israel). His mother remained in Vienna and later died at Auschwitz. While in Israel Lessing studied at Haifa's technical college and then worked agricultural jobs on kibbutzim. He then joined the British Army as a photographer and aviator.

After World War II, Lessing returned to Austria in 1947 and joined the Associated Press. David Seymour invited Lessing to join Magnum Photos in 1951 and Lessing became a full member in 1955. His photographs were published by such magazines as Life, Paris Match, Picture Post, EPOCA and Quick. He documented politics in post-war Europe, especially in Communist countries.

In the 1960s, Lessing turned to more cultural subjects such as art, science, and history, by taking portraits of poets, musicians, physicists, and astronomers. With these photographs, Lessing has produced more than 40 books.

Lessing has taught in Arles, France, at the Venice Biennale, at the Salzburg Summer Academy, and at the Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna. His work has been exhibited throughout the world.[2][3]

Personal life[edit]

Lessing now lives in Vienna and is married to a journalist. He has three children and five grandchildren.



  • 1956, American Art Editors´ Award for his work during the Hungarian Revolution
  • 1966, Prix Nadar for his book “Odyssee”
  • 1970, Austrian Karl Renner prize for outstanding cultural achievements
  • 1976, Culture-Award of the city of Vienna
  • 1992, Vienna's silver medal for outstanding services to the city
  • 1992, Imre Nagy medal from the President of the Hungary for his work during the Hungarian revolution
  • 1997, Golden Medal from the governor of Syria
  • 1997, “Grosser Österreichischer Staatspreis”