Elliott Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt

2007 Honoree: Lifetime Achievement



ELLIOTT ERWITT was born in France of Russia émigré parents in 1928. His formative years were spent in Italy. At the age of 10 he moved with his family to France afterward immigrating to the United States in 1939, settling in New York for two years before the transferring to Los Angeles.

In the early ’50s, Erwitt moved to New York City by way of Pittsburgh, Germany and France (the last two locations courtesy of the United States Army). He settled in New York for good establishing his fundamental base of operations …although ‘settling’ in Erwitt parlance means “where you are at the moment for as long as you don’t go somewhere else”. Flexibility and adaptation to the requirements of the profession and personal interests have kept him moving about the globe before returning to base.

While attending Hollywoood High School Erwitt worked in a commercial darkroom processing “signed” prints for fans of movie stars. During 1949 he returned to Europe traveling and photographing in Italy and France thus marking the start of his professional career. Drafted in to the US Army in 1951 he continued taking photographs for various publications totally apart from his military duties while stationed New Jersey, Germany and France.

By good fortune while looking for work on exploratory trips to New York City prior to his military service, he met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker who liked his photographs and took a personal guiding interest becoming significant mentors.

In 1953 freshly decommissioned from military service, Elliott Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos as a member by its founder Robert Capa. In 1968 he became President of the prestigious agency for 3 terms. To date he continues to be an active member and one of the leading figures in the competitive field of photography.

Erwitt’s books, journalistic essays, illustrations, and advertisements have been featured in publications around the world for over forty years. While continuing his work as a still 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 GLASS MAKERS OF HEART (1977).

In the ’80s Erwitt produced seventeen comedy and satire television programs for HOME BOX OFFICE. From the ’90s to the present he continues to lead a remarkably varied professional life encompassing many disparate aspects of photography. While actively working for magazine, industrial and advertising clients Erwitt devotes all his spare time toward creating books and exhibitions of his work destined for galleries and museums. To date he is the auther of over 20 photography books and is preparing a new one titled “UNSEEN” for fall of 2007.

A listing of one man shows at significant public venues include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Chicago Art Institute, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in Paris (Palais de Tokyo), the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Barbican in London, the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, the Museum of Art of New South Wales in Sydney, the Spazio Oberdan in Milan, various Asian venues too difficult to pronounce and many others. Private galleries scattered throughout the world display, promote and sell Erwitt’s “fine art” photographs.

Elliott Erwitt likes children and dogs.