Elliott Erwitt was a French-American advertising documentary photographer considered one of the masters of his medium. Known for his candid and often humorous black-and-white images, Erwitt is responsible for some of the most iconic photographs of the 20th century, including indelible portraits of figures like Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara, and Richard Nixon.
Over the course of his career, the artist has published numerous photobooks, often with particular focus on dogs. “The work I care about is terribly simple,” Erwitt remarked in 1988. “I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotion. Little else interests me in photography.” Born on July 26, 1928 in Paris, France, his family emigrated to the United States in 1939, he went on to study photography at Los Angeles Community College, filmmaking at the New School for Social Research, and later worked as a photojournalist in France and Italy . After serving in the army in the early 1950s, he was invited to join Magnum Photos by Robert Capa who, along with Edward Steichen and Roy Stryker, admired Erwitt’s style of off-the-cuff shooting. Stryker would commission him to undertake a project documenting the city of Pittsburgh.
Erwitt continued to work as a freelance photographer for Collier’s, Look, LIFE, Holiday and other luminaries in that golden period for illustrated magazines. In 2011, the artist was awarded the Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement by the International Center of Photography. In the late 1960s, Erwitt served as Magnum’s president for three years. He then turned to film: in the 1970s, he produced several notable documentaries and in the 1980s eighteen comedy films for HBO. Erwitt became known for benevolent irony, and for a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum.
Currently based in New York, NY, Erwitt travels extensively for his commercial and fine art commissions. The artist’s works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others.