Elliott Erwitt

by Erin Martin.

Born July 26th, 1928 in Paris, France.

Elliott Erwitt is still living today and is currently 87 years old. Erwitt was born in Paris of Jewish-Russian immigrant parents. He spent most of his childhood in Milan, but when he was ten, him and his family immigrated to the United States. He studied photography and film-making at the Los Angeles City College and the New School for Social Research in New York. He finished his education in 1950.
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Why Photography?

Most of his interest in photography and film-making stemmed from living in Hollywood after him and his family immigrated. As a teenager, Erwitt spent the majority of his time experimenting with photography and working in a commercial darkroom. He also briefly traveled to France and Italy in 1949 with his camera to gain more experience with film and taking pictures.

Job Experience?

Proceeding college, in 1951, Erwitt was drafted into the military service and undertook multiple photographic duties while serving in a unit of the Army Signal Corps in Germany and France.

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After his military service, Erwitt traveled back to New York and met Roy Stryker, the former head of the Farm Security Administration. Stryker originally hired Erwitt to work for the Standard Oil Company, where he was going to build up a photographic library for the company, but then ended up commissioning him to undertake a project to document the city of Pittsburgh.

In 1953 Erwitt joined Magnum Photos to worked as a freelance photographer, allowing him to shoot multiple photographs around the world.


Erwitt takes the majority of his photographs in black and white. He is also famously known for capturing dogs; they have been the subject of four of his books. Dogs are one of my favorite animals which is one of the reasons I chose Erwitt for this project. Along with being very interested in his other black and white photographs.
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What is he famous for?

Elliott Erwitt has capture numerous pictures of the dead while or before they were famous. Many people today, still refer back to his wonderful Marilyn Monroe or John F. Kennedy photographs.

Erwitt is also known for his shared interested in film making. Some of his feature films include, "Arthur Penn: the Director" (1970), Beauty Knows No Pain (1971), Red, White and Bluegrass (1973) and the prize-winning Glassmakers of Herat, Afghanistan (1977).

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For his many years of work, Erwitt has been awarded many things. For instance, The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship in 2002, in recognition of a significant contribution to the art of photography. He was also given the International Center for Photography's Infinity Award and Lifetime Achievement category in 2011.

What he says about his work vs. what others say:

In Source #4 at the bottom on the page, Todd Heisler got the great chance to talk to Erwitt in Perpignan, France. They talked about Heisler's own photography and his favorites of Erwitt's. When Heisler asked Erwitt to sign a copy of his book that he owned, Erwitt's great sense of humor came out when he told Heisler, “Don’t buy my book, it’s much too heavy to carry on the plane.”

Erwitt then explained his process of complying his photography books together. He said he is constantly combing his archives for things he missed and joining them into themes he loves. He took a lot of beach pictures, hence a beach book. He likes dogs -- a lot. “I have eight dog books out,” he said.

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A lot has been said about Erwitt’s great eye for the absurd and unusual. His favorite interview question happened in Moscow when someone asked him — seriously — “Were you there when you took that picture?” His reply was. "Probably."

When asked more along the lines of his personal work, he said, "I don’t think a lot,” . “That’s all I’ve ever done, so it comes naturally. I’ve had some very good subjects: my kids, my wives, my travels and my leisure time."

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My appreciation.

I really enjoy the way of his black and white photographs. Usually, color can be something very often used to try and convey emotion, but Erwitt does it without needing any color whatsoever. I also really enjoyed looking at all of his dog pictures. Somehow, in a way, they had more emotion being conveyed than some of the human subjected ones.
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