Elliott Erwitt

I decided to research Elliott Erwitt’s photography to learn a little more about the different styles of portrait photography to gain a little more experience prior to assignment five. Elliott Erwitt was born in Paris and is a documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of strange situations! He became a self-employed photographer and joined the Magnum Photos agency, allowing him to do photography projects all around the world. People are Erwitt’s main interest, and he is passionate about capturing people completely candidly. In an interview he was asked “How do you see the changing attitudes over the years to approaching people to photograph them – or do you do it secretly?His reply was very interesting; “I never ask permission. Why would anybody ask permission…that means just sticking somebody in front of a camera and say, “Look here!” and go “click, click, click”. That’s not photography.(1)”

This shows Erwitt’s extremely strong views on candid photography. I am trying to gain experience in capturing candid images, but still find myself giving the subjects advice on how to stand or certain expressions to use! This is something I need to work on- as I believe those precious candid moments captured are so much more special to the subject. Erwitt even goes to the extremes of capturing images without asking permission- now THAT’S candid!! He describes how he captured the following image of a wedding; “I was just driving somewhere — it was in New England I think, New Hampshire — and I came on the scene. I just stopped the car — it was obviously a wedding party — and I took their picture, got back in the car and left. I did not attend the wedding. I don’t know these people. I never saw them before. I’m certain that I’ll never see them again. And nobody sued me. So that was good.(2)”  This really surprised me! You would need some serious guts to simply walk up to a stranger and take their photo. I supposed this is how he produces such beautifully natural and candid imagery. This is something to admire!

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When asked in an interview what his views were on Digital Photography and editing, I was surprised to see that his views were similar to mine. “A digital camera is a lot more practical and more convenient than film when you have to deliver a project. But digital manipulation is something else. In ‘real’ photography, of course, it’s an abomination, but when you’re selling automobiles or cornflakes, it’s perfectly ok. “Real” photography is about what is; the special thing about photography is what you see, not what you conjure up. That’s quite foreign to photography in my view.(4)”  I agree with this statement completely. Manipulation in advertising or book covers is perfectly acceptable, but when the lines begin to blur into portrait photography, there is something very dishonest about this. Merging images, changing eye colour, adding things in etc. is all completely wrong. Erwitt’s images are all completely free of manipulation, and yet they’re all amazing! Below are some of my favourite pieces of his work;

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Elliot Erwitt is renowned for how hard he works. He loves photography, and it’s still his passion, even after all these years. To end this blog post, I found this great quote by Erwitt that gives me inspiration to work, work and work harder in my photography, and to never give up until my dream to become a photographer is fulfilled.

“Photography is not brain surgery. It’s not that complicated.  It’s easier now than it was before, but before it wasn’t that hard. It was reasonably easy.  It’s not the ease; it’s what you do and how you do it and how you construct your life and your vision.”

Elliott Erwitt

(1) PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER (2009-2012), Elliott Erwitt Interview, Available from: http://www.professionalphotographer.co.uk/Magazine/Legends/Interviews/Elliott-Erwitt-interview, [Accessed on 19/03/13]

(2) THE NEW YORK TIMES (2013), Elliott Erwitt’s Best Picture? The Next One, Available from:  http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/elliott-erwitts-best-picture-the-next-one/ [Accessed on 19/03/13]

(3) TUMBLR., Elliott Erwitt, Available from: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/elliott%20erwitt [Accessed on 19/03/13]

(4) THE NEW YORK TIMES (2013), Elliott Erwitt’s Best Picture? The Next One, Available from: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/06/elliott-erwitts-best-picture-the-next-one/[Accessed on 19/03/13]

(5) PHOTOGRAPHING FANTASY, Elliott Erwitt, Available from: http://robinlam.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/elliot-erwitt/ [Accessed on 19/03/13]

(6) ERWITT, ELLIOTT, Elliott Erwitt’s Paris, Published: 15/07/10 [Accessed on 19/03/13]

(7) PHOTOGRAPHING FANTASY, Elliott Erwitt, Available from: http://robinlam.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/elliot-erwitt/ [Accessed on 19/03/13]

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2 thoughts on “Elliott Erwitt

  1. Pingback: Compare and Contrast- Elliott Erwitt, George Brassai and Annie Leibovitz | Hans Photography

  2. Pingback: Module Reflection and Evaluation | Hans Photography

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