The photography of Elliot Erwitt on exhibit in New York and Merano
The extraordinary in the ordinary
“I wouldn’t define myself in any way. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I’ll be funny. I prefer to be more funny than tragic. It’s an unconscious thing. If what I do is also entertaining for others, that makes me happy.” And again, “For me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I discovered that it has little to do with the things that you observe and everything to do with the way in which you see it.” These two statements, apparently distant, say much about the great photographer, Elliot Erwitt. For some, he is an iconoclast of the camera, for others, an example of formal rigor and didacticism, befitting a photo-reporter of race. Whatever the definition, his photos are striking for their capacity to view the world with light-heartedness, with the irreverent innocence of a child, while at the same time maintaining the disenchantment of the man of the world, sufficiently indulgent and sarcastic when necessary.
The New York photographer, born in 1928, has always shown creativity, gusto, class, and eclecticism: qualities that have made him a model. But what distinguishes Erwin is his irony, the capacity to find the most surreal and funny side of dramatic situations.
In honor of the maestro, a vast retrospective, “Personal Best,” at the International Center of Photography in New York is being held through August 28. The exhibit is made up of more than 100 photos, chosen by Erwitt himself, together with some unpublished photos of his early work. And until September 25, Merano Arte will also dedicate an exhibit to Erwitt, of forty images, entitled, “Icons.”
Born in France to a Russian-emigrant family, he moved to Italy before arriving in the United States in 1939. Erwitt has always been a traveling reporter. In 1953, discharged from the military, he was invited by Robert Capa, founding member of Magnum Photos, with Cartier-Bresson, Rodger and Seymour, to become part of the celebrated cooperative of photographers who documented the great events of the last century; Erwitt would become President of the group in 1968.
Even today, Erwitt can not do without his camera, which he calls a “fetish,” and which he always carries with him. Besides, he says, it is the only way to find himself in the right place at the right time: “When I get up in the morning,” he said, “I brush my teeth and go about my affairs, and if I’m going to an interesting place, I take my camera with me. The thing is that when you don’t have your camera with you, that’s when the photos that you want to take appear in front of you, or at least it seems to happen like that.
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