Elliott Erwitt is one of the leading figures in magazine, advertising, and commercial photography. A member of photography’s elite, Magnum, since 1953, he also began making film documentaries in the 1970s. But he is best known for the warmth, humor, and wry observations in his personal work, which he has continued to produce in tandem with his commercial practice, and which are collected in best-selling volumes such as Personal Exposures (1988) and Snaps (2001).
Born in Paris to Russian émigré parents, Erwitt and his family spent several years in Milan before returning to Paris, in 1938, when he was ten years old. The following year they moved to New York, before settling finally in Los Angeles in 1941. Erwitt has been an enthusiastic traveller ever since. His first experience of photography was in a commercial dark room, where he helped produce “signed” photos of movie stars. He began taking pictures shortly afterwards, whilst travelling in France and Italy, and by 1953 he had been invited to join Magnum by its one of its founders, Robert Capa.
His early career, when he was an accredited Whitehouse photographer, yielded some famous images, including those of the “kitchen cabinet debate” between Nixon and Khrushchev in 1959, and images of Jacqueline Kennedy at John F Kennedy’s funeral in 1963.
He has produced portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Humphrey Bogart and Fidel Castro. In the 1970s he began producing films, television commercials and documentaries, including the award-winning Glassmakers of Herat (1977). Throughout his career he has continued to shoot his own personal work, always in black and white. He likes it noted that he adores children and dogs, and his pictures of them over several decades attest to that.
Elliott Erwitt lives and works in New York. The author of twenty books, he has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris; the Reina Sofia, Madrid; and the Museum of Art of New South Wales, Sydney. His work is held in major public and private collections across the world.