Fred Zinnemann was born April 29th, 1907 in Vienna, Austria. Growing up in early nineteenth century Europe, Zinnemann felt the beleaguering effects the First World War, and the plague of enormous inflation that followed. In an interview, Zinnemann mentioned that he “admired the optimism that came out of that era in America—the wonderful buildings, the energy, and the colossal difference to the psychology of having free speech . . . There was clearly a feeling of the future, whereas in Europe the future looked very gloomy.” His photographs revealed this notion of the “future”, as some depict skyscrapers rising, and the crowd waiting in Times Square for news of the 1932 presidential election. Zinnemann would pursue his American dream, though initially set out for Paris at the age of twenty despite his parent's disapproval. Zinnemann insisted on his own destiny in France, where he would receive the photographic training that would later influence his perception as a film-maker.
Zinnemann would soon make his way to United States; arriving in New York on the day of the stock market crash of 1929. He unsuccessfully sought to join the cameraman’s local union. Despite this setback, he almost immediately started taking photographs. After a spell in Hollywood, he returned to New York in 1932 to work on a film on Long Island. On Sundays he took pictures, with the ultimate goal of producing a book. The book never materialized — another victim of the Depression. He viewed that desperate time with a milder eye than contemporary photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Paul Strand, with whom Zinnemann worked with on the 1934 film The Wave.
Fred Zinnemann would become an Oscar-winning director for which he is most prominently remembered, and whose body of work included 22 feature films (High Noon, From Here to Eternity, Oklahoma!, Julia, The Nun’s Story, A Man For All Seasons, among many others) and 19 documentary shorts. However, Zinnemann was a photographer first and foremost. In 1989, he donated a large collection of his prints to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Zinnemann passed away March 14th, 1997 at the age of 89.