Daily Picture Show

Unseen Hemingway Photographs Discovered

Alfred Eisenstaedt is known for his photograph V-J day in Times Square. That image has been in virtually every textbook, every photographic anthology, every war documentary since it was taken, or so it seems. But Eisenstaedt also has some lesser-known photographs. In fact, this collection was almost entirely forgotten until recently.

In 1952, Life magazine sent Eisenstaedt to Cuba to photograph writer Ernest Hemingway. The photographs would accompany a Hemingway novella that was to be published in the magazine before becoming a book. The story was "The Old Man and the Sea," and that issue of Life went on to sell 5.3 million copies in two days. Unfortunately for Eisenstaedt, Hemingway wasn't quite as cooperative as that famous kissing couple.

  • Ernest Hemingway at a Cuban fishing village similar to the one in his book "The Old Man and the Sea," 1952. The photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt recalled that styling Hemingway, who wanted to wear nothing but shorts, was quite the challenge, and for years cited this shoot as one of his most challenging.
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    Ernest Hemingway at a Cuban fishing village similar to the one in his book "The Old Man and the Sea," 1952. The photographer, Alfred Eisenstaedt recalled that styling Hemingway, who wanted to wear nothing but shorts, was quite the challenge, and for years cited this shoot as one of his most challenging.
    Photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
  • Hemingway resisted having his photograph taken, so Eisenstaedt resorted to taking stealthy candids.
    Hide caption
    Hemingway resisted having his photograph taken, so Eisenstaedt resorted to taking stealthy candids.
  • Life sent Eisenstaedt to Cuba to shoot photographs for a novella that would run in the magazine before being published as a book. The story was "The Old Man and the Sea," and that issue of Life went on to sell 5.3 million copies in two days.
    Hide caption
    Life sent Eisenstaedt to Cuba to shoot photographs for a novella that would run in the magazine before being published as a book. The story was "The Old Man and the Sea," and that issue of Life went on to sell 5.3 million copies in two days.
  • Eisenstaedt captured a few frames of this Cojimar fisherman, who resembles what one might imagine as "the old man" in the story. Hemingway, however, said his protagonist was based on "no one in particular."
    Hide caption
    Eisenstaedt captured a few frames of this Cojimar fisherman, who resembles what one might imagine as "the old man" in the story. Hemingway, however, said his protagonist was based on "no one in particular."
  • Hemingway himself was a fisherman, and he carefully delineated the chores of a Cuban fisherman in his story — chores similar to those photographed by Eisenstaedt.
    Hide caption
    Hemingway himself was a fisherman, and he carefully delineated the chores of a Cuban fisherman in his story — chores similar to those photographed by Eisenstaedt.
  • Hemingway wrote, "His hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of the scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert."
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    Hemingway wrote, "His hands had the deep-creased scars from handling heavy fish on the cords. But none of the scars were fresh. They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert."

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An infamously surly character, Hemingway was resistant to Eisenstaedt's camera. Only after much cajoling would the writer put on a shirt, and only with the help of his wife and a cocktail would he acquiesce to a portrait. Eisenstaedt resorted to taking stealthy candids of the writer, and for years after recalled it as his most difficult assignment. Very few photographs from the assignment ran in the magazine; some were rendered as drawings. But today, almost 60 years later, the photographs have resurfaced.

Eisenstaedt photographed the small fishing town of Cojimar, the novella's inspirational setting, as well as one old fisherman in particular — somewhat misleading, as Hemingway insisted that his character was based on no one specifically. More photos from Eisenstaedt's arduous assignment are on life.com.

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