Published: May 10, 2011
An eyewitness to history and a dreamer with a camera, Elliott Erwitt has made some of the most memorable photographs of the Twentieth Century. A substantial retrospective exhibition of his work, “Elliott Erwitt: Personal Best,” will be on view at the International Center of Photography May 20⁁ugust 28.
The exhibition will include more than 100 of Erwitt’s favorite images, a selection of his documentary films produced over the past 60 years, as well as some previously unseen and unpublished prints from his early work.
In 1953, he was invited by Robert Capa to join Magnum Photos, and in 1955 he was included in Edward Steichen’s “Family of Man” exhibition. Early on, Erwitt set his own criteria for photographing. During the 1940s and 1950s, when many noted fine-art photographers followed established guidelines for exposure, focus and composition, Erwitt developed his own ideas. With an incisive, humanistic sense of observation and a honed wit, he illuminated the small moments of life, even when covering major news events.
“To me, photography is an art of observation,” said Erwitt. “It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place&†I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
Throughout six decades of making pictures, Erwitt has been recognized for his versatility. While famous for personal photographs of people and dogs and widely reproduced commercial imagery, Erwitt is also respected for his work as a photojournalist. Among the iconic moments he has captured with his camera are the Khrushchev-Nixon “Kitchen Debate” in 1959, and Jacqueline Kennedy, veiled and in distress at the funeral of her husband in 1963; his photograph of segregated water is a poignant reminder of the injustices of the Jim Crow South.
Erwitt is also celebrated for portraits, including such distinguished subjects as Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Jack Kerouac, Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Che Guevara.
“Erwitt is noted for his offbeat sense of humor, combining gentle whimsy with ironic observation of everyday life. Often these works involve visual puns that make the viewer look twice, but they are always organized with great elegance and precision,” said ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis, who organized the exhibit.
The center is at 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street. For more information, www.icp.org or 212-857-0045.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm