Elliot Erwitt

Born in 1928 in Paris, Erwitt was an American photographer specialising in advertisement and documentary photography while being best known for his candid street photography that captured humours and ironic real life happenings in black and white.

Moving from Paris to the United States at the age of 10 Elliot Erwitt studied at the Los Angeles City College and the New School for Social Research, finishing in 1950. It was during the mid 50’s the Erwitt served as a photographers assistant within the US Army in both France and Germany. It was during this time he met Robert Capa, Edward Steichen, and Roy Stryker and the latter hired Elliot for his first freelance assignment for the Standard Oil Company. This then led further onto work with Look, Life, and Holiday when he then joined the Magnum Photo Agency in 1953 which allowed him the opportunities to work around the world.

More recently in his career he has looked at, in a humours manner at the excess of contemporary photographers. Through his alter-ego André S. Solidor, a contemporary artist from a french colony which saw his work published in 2009 with an exhibition in London 2 years later.

From the 1970’s Elliot Erwitt has also been focused on filmmaking, from television commercials, documentary and also feature films he was involved in the successful 1970 film ‘Gimme Shelter’.

Elliot Erwitt’s work is rather new to me, when looking at his body of work I notice images I have seen before not knowing the photographer and his images capture a wonderful at times fun and humours look at life and people. His observationally skill and timing, for me are his most effective skills. His ability to observe the world around him and produce images that not just say something about the environment they are taken in on or the subjects within them but also the connection between the two and in the case of the image below, its scale.



This brilliant image that captures the relationship between people and their pets shows the variety on sizes and the relationship of these sizes with a human adult. The wonderful connection with the small dog and the camera really gives an emotive element to the photograph that brings the viewer to a more humours element of the photograph. The image is brilliantly composed with the highlights of light giving each element form and with the lighter background the depth draws the viewer further into the frame.


This second image of Elliot Erwitt is a fantastic and perfect example of why he is a master of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ‘The Decisive Moment’ this stunning example of the perfect moment is set against the perfect backdrop that draws the viewer all over the image always returning the leaping individual. Its very difficult to say anything about this photograph, it is perfect, the content and form both give the photograph punctum and work perfectly together to draw the bring connect the viewer with the incredible beauty and depth of interest in this image.

Elliot Erwitt’s work and most notably his ability to produce a photograph with obvious observational consideration and timing has inspired me further with my social documentary photography in assignment 5 of the Art of Photography. I love the connection between each element of the photographs seen here and their ability to balance the content and form of an image to fully use its obviously humour or beauty. I aim to refer to this in my photography, be it in a more spiritual nature with my subject being a religious festival.


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