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Elliott Erwitt, Photographer Who Transformed Mundane into Art, Dies at 95

Elliott Erwitt, a renowned photojournalist and commercial photographer who captured mundane, sometimes fleeting scenes of life and transformed them into humorous, enthralling or disturbingly evocative moments for all time, died Nov. 29 at his home in Manhattan. He was 95.

In a body of work spanning seven decades, Mr. Erwitt proved a master of what his mentor Henri Cartier-Bresson called seizing the “decisive moment” — being trigger-quick to observe the extraordinary in the ordinary and turn it into compelling art.

Mr. Erwitt, who remained a proponent of black-and-white film well into the age of digital photography, had dual careers as a journalist and an artist. He began contributing in the 1950s to Magnum, the photojournalism agency founded by Cartier-Bresson and another mentor, Robert Capa, as well as to popular magazines of the day, such as Life, Newsweek, Collier’s and Look.

On his photo shoots, Mr. Erwitt carried two cameras, one for his assignment and one for his pleasure. He insisted that his paid professional work — which he termed “creative obedience” — was merely a means to support his avocation. Among his acquired photographic enthusiasms was a fascination with dogs, which he showed in comically improbable settings.

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