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Wednesday, 31 October 2007


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My favorite Erwitt is from his museum series. The one with the lone woman on the left looking at the painting of a clothed woman reclining on a couch, and on the right is the group of men staring at the same painting of the woman reclining nude.

Erwitt is easily one of my personal favorites, probably in the top three of that group. (Henri Cartier-Bresson didn't make the top 3 but perhaps the top 20.) I so admire his eye, his reflexes, and his sense of humor and irony. He is positively a world treasure.

I have been faced with a similar conundrum as your friend. I could not possibly choose just one print. So I just buy his photo books and look at the all any time I need to smile or to get a reality-check on just how far I've to go in my photography.

I would choose the one of a woman sitting behind a row of shelves with a pair of turnips lying on a shelf at about chest height, looking for all the world like her bare breasts are sticking through the shelves.

Dave Jenkins

Impossible to decide. His Flat Iron Building shot is, IMHO, the best one of this often photographed building. But for me, the "Lost Persons Area" best embodies his sense of humor.

For those of us who can't afford a print, buy "Personal Best" and get a 100+ that are very well reproduced for about $100,


As an aside, the photo to the cover of the Erwitt "Personal Exposures" book you've linked to was also used as an album cover that year, 1988, for Fairground Attractions' "The First of a Million Kisses." I met their singer Edie Reader once and she's a delightful and talented woman. I dare say that Erwitt's shot was actually matched in goofy charm by that remarkable album, which absolutely deserved the photo. (Album photo is here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_First_of_a_Million_Kisses)

Impossible to choose. Such heart, humor, and eye. A dog picture -- the ankle-level shot of a tiny dog in a sweater next to a woman's feet on a NYC sidewalk -- was, I think, my first glimpse of E.E.'s work.

I would go for the young boy holding a revolver to his head. I think it dates from the mid-50s. I keep coming back to it - compulsive. I went to EE's agent in London, but the price was just that bit too much.

Mike, (or anyone)

Could you give an overview of his books, and maybe a couple of links. I'm looking for a good summary of him for max $30.


My choice is the one in which his wife and child are on the bed and the cat looking on.

I'll second Tim G's recommendation of the two Majas. That is seriously funny.

Can't decide. so here is 2. From Dog Dogs the guy with the Afgan at Central Park at the edge of a pond. Pic one, the dog is half heartedly chewing on a stick geld by the guy. Pic two (facing page) The guy is throwing the stick in the water while dog, on leash the whole time mind you, appears to be contemplating it's reflection in the water with no interest in the guy or stick.

For non dog pic I like the couple and dancer (bounding with umbrella) at the Eiffel Tower as silouettes in the rain.

AndI also like....

Dave Cattell,
Not really possible at the moment. "Snaps" is out of print. You can get some nice samplers but nothing close to comprehensive for $30. Erwitt has had a series of theme books published in the last decade or so ("On the Beach," "To the Dogs," "Between the Sexes," "Elliott Erwitt's Handbook") but most of them are out of print now, although you can get "Handbook" for very little money at Daedalus books right now.

Keep your eyes open though, something's bound to come along.

Mike J.

Yay for Elliott Erwitt!

Its impossible to pick a favourite but one that jumps into my mind is two old ladies in deckchairs talking and laughing with a naked man leaning against a post. There is just something joyous and very funny about it that never fails to make me smile.

I read somewhere that after he had finished showing several photos he took in nudist camps someone asked him what he was wearing on the shoot. His response was: "A Leica."


Elliott Erwitt is the best!
How about the one at the dog show with the group of people and a poodle standing and watching.

I love his work, and view him as one of the best (and most interesting) photographers of our time.
But I wish that he'd hurry up and make that "one special image" which (like Adams' Moonrise, and Lange's Migrant Mother) would always be linked to identify him as one of the "greats."

I like the one with the big cat and the tiny puppy - is that Erwitt?

Silly me......flipping through the book again I realize the story I told was a tryptich.

The last photo is the dog all alone off leash staring at the stick floating in the water.

Makes more sense that way huh?

Erwitt tops my list of favorite photographers, and I, too, would pick one of his dog shots if I could afford a print of his.

I haven't really examined this claim too deeply for lameness, but I think humor is the most elusive quality in photography. And Erwitt does it better than anyone else I've ever seen. His warm, humane, wry intelligence just shines out of his pictures.

I went to see him give a slideshow and a talk at Parsons School of Design about three years ago (sparsely attended, to my dismay), and I took the opportunity to ask him what I knew was almost certainly an unanswerable question: basically, how does he do it, make his pictures so funny?

Of course he didn't even really recognize the question as coherent in any way. But he tried to be kind to my dumb question and said essentially that he just sees things that strike him as funny (or imagines them -- many of his images over the years have been constructed for ad campaigns, which doesn't diminish their charm one bit for me).

Anyway, it's a wonderful gift he has, even if he couldn't teach it to me :-)

Yes, without doubt, just about any Erwitt, dog or not, would be welcome to my collection. But if I had to choose, I think one from the nudist camp work, especially the one of the backside of the guy holding the "tennis balls" in his hand and looking at the rear end of woman bending over who just happens to have a big round spot on her right cheek. Doesn't get better than that.
What I never understood was how he could hold a camera still enough to make a sharp image -- surely he was laughing out loud at what he was seeing.

I like a lot of Gary Winogrand's work, and people who knew him say he was a good guy, but in hearing about his working style, I always felt that there was something of an unhealthy compulsion about it -- not that he didn't stop, but that he *couldn't* stop. Erwitt, on the other hand, seems (to judge from the number and quality of his photos) to have had a Leica around his neck just as often as Winogrand, but without that hard edge of compulsion. He just seems to be out there hanging around, enjoying himself.

"His one great signature photo" for me is the one with the woman's face reflected in the car mirror. My favorite -- maybe, I change my mind everytime I think of a new one -- is the one with the little dog jumping straight up in the air.


Dave Cattell,

Some of Erwitt's out-of-print books are available used through Amazon marketplace. There's also a small paperback available at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Elliott-Erwitt-Photofile/dp/0500410879/ref=sr_1_12/002-5912357-8156006?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1194026833&sr=1-12

I've bought several of his older books as used and even though some of them are not in the best physical condition, the photos remain outstanding.

My top two Erwitt's don't feature dogs. I would have to choose between the couple dancing in a kitchen viewed through the doorway (I believe the man in the picture is/was a photographer friend of Erwitt's - I wonder who?), and the young child looking out of the broken bus window, which is mesmerising. But if it had to be a dog, it would be the bulldog sitting in its owner's lap.

It's well known that Erwitt barks at dogs to get a reaction out of them. I once heard him say that he has different barks for different dogs, mainly because he wouldn't want to overwhelm a small dog, or underwhelm a big one.

I love the Bull Dog photo but my favorite is the Boot Ad photo with the Great Dane legs on the left and the boots in the middle and the little dog on the right. I learned about Erwitt from his Dog Dogs book.

Agree with Tim G (taken the Prado - in Snaps, p 86) but best for me is the overlooked but lovely picture from St Tropez, 1979 of the wee lassie in costume dancing a little dance of her own while adults look the other way. It captures her quirky independence, while the folklorique costumes link her closely to the adults. Not seen it online, but it's p 492 in Snaps. That or the wonderful Siberian wedding group where the bride and groom are staring appalled at the best man, who has the most eloquent "guess what I'm about to say" expression (p 54)...or...or...or. The reason no dog ones is that they don't show (to me) quite as much of one of Erwitt's finest qualities - his fantastic narrative strength. Every picture tells a back-story.

His pictures of children are wonderful, I think much under-rated compared with the dog pictures. He's also a very generous photographer, considered against the judgementalism of some (I didn't say Diane Arbus, not me, nonono).

He's capable of a much wider repertoire than some of these favourites suggest: take the multi-layered photo of the young Pittsburgh boy holding a toy pistol to his head in 1950: not a drop of irony or humour in it, but a pervasive compassion (Snaps p 495).

The best of his pictures (which is to say almost all) are as dense and powerful as Shakespeare's sonnets. Erwitt's wit is like Shakespeare's - a way of getting to something very serious indeed.

Choosing your favorite dog photo is like picking your favorite dog or favorite child. It's impossible to do!

But I will say that I don't think your friend can go wrong no matter what photo is selected. Art is personal. Whatever photo brings the most joy is the right one to choose.

Anything with a dog in it. I've always been fond of the little white dog jumping in the air, but all of his photos are so full of joy and of life. All of his photographs are surprising and touching, and I'd be happy to own any of them. I don't really think I could just pick one.

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