Erwitt, Elliott

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ERWITT, ELLIOTT (1928– ), U.S. photographer. Born in Paris to Russian parents, Erwitt immigrated to the United States with them in 1939. The family settled in Los Angeles, where Erwitt studied photography from 1942 to 1944 at Los Angeles City College. He worked as a photographic assistant in the U.S. Army before going to New York to study film. There, his work gained the regard of three influential figures in photography: Edward *Steichen of the Museum of Modern Art; Robert *Capa at Magnum, the photo agency; and Roy Stryker at the Standard Oil Company photo library. Steichen included several of Erwitt's pictures in the Modern's monumental 1955 "Family of Man" show, Stryker hired him as a staff photographer, and Capa promised a membership at Magnum after Erwitt's two-year army hitch. He remained with Magnum for more than 50 years. Erwitt's photography has often reflected his sense of humor: a quiet sense of the ridiculous, sometimes punctuated with visual puns, sometimes with hilariously candid juxtapositions. Most of his images, in black and white, were candids, taken with a small Leica, which he carried constantly. Some familiar photographs included Richard M. Nixon and Nikita S. Khrushchev at the famous "kitchen debate" in the Soviet Union; a bored-looking dog lifting his leg during a political speech by Nelson A. Rockefeller; and Jacqueline Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, clutching the flag that covered her husband's coffin. Other memorable pictures are of unknown people at unknown places and times. The cover of one of his books, Personal Exposures, for example, shows a photograph, taken at a beach in California in 1955, of a parked car whose side-view mirror reflects a couple kissing.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]