Who was the iconic photographer Elliott Erwitt?

He was one of the most polymathic photographers in the visual arts. Elliott Erwitt, who died on 29 November, left his mark on his generation with his playful and intimate images, his portraits and his unique creative style in black and white.


On 29 November 2023, the art world lost Elliott Erwitt.

This artist, born in Paris in 1928 to Russian immigrant parents, grew up in Italy before moving to the United States. Until 1950, he studied photography and filmmaking at Los Angeles City College and The New School for Social Research.

At the end of his university studies, the budding artist travelled for a few months and tried his hand at photography, using various landscapes as models. In 1951, he became an assistant photographer in the army, before moving to New York two years later to join the Magnum Photos agency.


© Elliott Erwitt – Magnum Photos


Dog pictures, portraits, landscapes, cities, couples, children, politics, fashion, advertising… Elliott Erwitt’s talents are manifold, although he has never wished to explain his photographs.


A free and playful approach


Elliott Erwitt’s photographs of dogs are well known to the public, who are drawn to playful animal imagery. A great friend of these furry animals, Elliott Erwitt has captured them, with his camera of course, in a natural and amusing way, in a variety of contexts. While the artist has devoted several books to them, the Musée Maillol has given pride of place to these photos of dogs in a retrospective exhibition in March 2023.


© Elliott Erwitt – Magnum Photos


Elliott Erwitt has also taken many photographs of couples. Intimate, sweet scenes, kisses, moments of complicity and humour, all in everyday settings, at home, in the car, in the street or on the beach.


© Elliott Erwitt – Magnum Photos


There are also photos of children, whose innocent yet vulnerable looks are sure to stir the emotions.

In addition to these themes, the photographer has set about immortalising life, just life. An elderly man sunbathing in a park, the New York Underground, the sea at St Tropez… It’s hard to list all these scenes of everyday life, as simple as they are magnetic.

But Elliott Erwitt has also painted portraits of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s funeral, Alfred Hitchcock, Charles de Gaulle and Che Guevara.


Marilyn Monroe © Elliott Erwitt – Magnum Photos


To discover the full extent of his work, visit La Sucrière in Lyon until 17 March 2024. The exhibition brings together 215 photographs in black and white and colour, covering a wide variety of themes.



Featured photo: Elliott Erwitt self-portrait © Elliott Erwitt – Magnum Photos

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