“The best things happen when you just happen to be somewhere with a camera”
– Elliott Erwitt
Elliott Erwitt died at his home in New York City on 29 November 2023. He leaves us with remarkable archive of fabulous photographs of the great and good, the many places he visited over a long and peripatetic career and his fun photographs of dogs and their owners.
“I’m not a serious photographer like many of my contemporaries. That is to say, I am serious about not being serious.”
– Ellioot Erwitt
Born Elio Romano Ervitz on 26 July, 1928 in Paris, he was the son of Orthodox Jewish parents Boris and Eugenia (Trepel) Erwitt, who fled Russia for France after the 1917 Revolution. The family relocated to Italy, but were forced to return to France when Benito Mussolini’s regime began to attack Jews. In 1939, just days before the Second World War began, the family arrived in the USA.
The family altered their name to avid persecution, and when Boris went to Los Angeles in 1941 as part of his job as a watch salesman, he took Elliott along. In LA, the boy’s shyness turned him towards photography, and he started to take pictures at 16 with a glass-plate camera, not long after changing up for a Rolleiflex.
His love of photography never left him, describing himself as “a professional photographer by trade and an amateur photographer by vocation”.
He studied photography at Los Angeles City College and worked in a commercial darkroom. In 1951, he was drafted into the US Army to fight in the Korean war. Stationed with the Army Signal Corps unit in France, Erwitt took a picture of his fellow soldiers in the barracks. The picture won a Life Magazine contest. The rest is history…
Note: This post is updated from an earlier post about a major retrospective at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas. Featuring more than 200 images drawn from Erwitt’s photography collection.
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