Elliot Erwitt, the man behind the photographs

FRANCE. Provence. 1955.

Elliott Erwitt was born in Paris to Russian émigré parents on July 26th, 1928. His formative years were spent in Milan. At the age of 10 his family moved back to Paris only to immigrate to New York a year later, then transferring to Los Angeles in 1941. While attending Hollywood High School he worked in a commercial darkroom processing “signed” prints for fans of movie stars.  

In 1948 by good fortune while looking for work on exploratory trips to New York City, Erwitt met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker who liked his photographs and took a personal guiding interest becoming significant mentors. The following year he returned to Europe traveling and photographing in Italy and France thus marking the start of his professional career. Drafted into the US Army in 1951 he continued taking photographs for various publications totally apart from his military duties while stationed in New Jersey, Germany and France. 

In 1953 freshly decommissioned from military service, Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos as a member by its founder Capa. In 1968 he became President of the prestigious agency for 3 terms. To date he continues to be one of the leading figures in the competitive field of photography. His journalistic essays, illustrations, and advertisements have been featured in publications around the world for over half a century. 

While continuing his work as a photographer, Erwitt began making films in the ’70s. His documentaries include BEAUTY KNOWS NO PAIN (1971), RED WHITE AND BLUE GRASS (1973) sponsored with a grant from the American Film Institute, and the awarded THE GLASSMAKERS OF HERAT (1979). He also produced 17 comedies and special satire programs for Home Box Office in the ’80s. 

 While actively working for magazine, industrial and advertising clients Erwitt devotes all his spare time toward creating books and exhibitions of his work. To date he is the author of nearly 45 photography book, including The Private Experience (1974), Son of Bitch (1974), Museum Watching (1998), Personal Best (2006), Elliott Erwitt’s Kolor (2013), Found, Not Lost (2021). 

A listing of one man shows at significant public venues include the Museum of Modern Art and  International Centre of Photography in New York, Scavi Scaligeri in Verona, The Chicago Art Institute, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, The Museum of Modern Art in Paris (Palais de Tokyo), The Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, The Barbican in London, the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, the Museum of Art of the New South Wales in Sydney, Spazio Oberdan and MUDEC in Milan, International Center of Photography in New York, Casa dei Tre Oci in Venice, Reggia di Venaria Reale in Venaria, Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, various asian venues and many others.