Born in Zhitomir into the family of a craftsman. At the age of 15 he became an apprentice in a photographic studio. In 1912 he moved to Odessa, where he worked as a photographer. He fought in the First World War. After the October Revolution he lived in Tashkent. He later moved to Moscow where he lived with his brother, the well-known artist David Shterenberg. He worked for the photographic service of the People's Commissariat for Communications, for Russfoto, for Unionfoto, for Soyuzfoto, and in the "Photo-artists" studio of Goskinoizdat. He was often published in newspapers and magazines, including "Soviet Jewish Tribune". He proved himself to be a highly versatile photographer: on the one hand he made use of artistic effects, on the other of photo-reportage techniques. His most characteristic works of these years are: "Violinist", "Portrait of a mother", "Henri Barbusse", "Mayakovsky", "Rabindranath Tagore".