Erich Lessing was born in Vienna July 13, 1923, the son of a dentist and a concert pianist. Hitler's occupation of Austria in 1939 forced his emigration to Israel (then still the British Mandate Palestine), leaving behind his mother in Vienna, who eventually perished at Auschwitz. In Israel, Lessing worked on several kibbutzim, and returned to photography, a childhood hobby, working as a kindergarten photographer and later as photographer with the British Army.
In 1947 he returned to Austria, worked as a photographer for the Associated Press and, in 1951, joined Magnum Photos, the world-famous photographer's cooperative. Working chiefly for LIFE, Paris Match, Picture Post, EPOCA and Quick Magazine, he documented political events in post-war Europe, particularly in the former Communist countries. He covered the Hungarian Revolution, several summit meetings and President Charles de Gaulle's visit to Algeria.
After 1960 his focus shifted towards history in an attempt to bring historical personalities and epochs alive in what he called photographic "evocations." These evocations included the lives and times of great musicians, poets, physicists and astronomers. Erich Lessing's more than 40 books include works on the history of Austria, the travels of Ulysses, two different volumes on the Old Testament, the Italian Renaissance, the history of the Low Countries, the Travels of Saint Paul, the Greek Myths, two books on Art and Religion in Ancient Egypt, a History of France and many more.
Erich Lessing has taught photography in Arles, at the Venice Biennale, in Ahmedabad in India as a UNIDO-expert, at the Salzburg summer Academy and at the Academy of Applied Art in Vienna. He has been the recipient of many prizes over the course of his career, including the Imre Nagy-medal, bestowed by the President of the Hungarian republic for his work during the Hungarian revolution.
Erich Lessing lives in Vienna. He is married to a journalist, has three children and five grandchildren.
[Adapted from the biography available on the Lessing Photo Archive website, http://www.lessing-photo.com/biopers.asp]