Menu

A Deep Dive Into Elliott Erwitt’s Remarkable Life in Photography

Elliott Erwitt, USA. Santa Monica, California. 1955.
Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX.

Elliott Erwitt, USA. New York City. 2000, Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX.

What is a life but a thousand points of light that flicker through our minds as moments rise and submerge through the murky banks of memory? Of all the people we’ve seen, places we’ve been, things we’ve done, words we’ve heard, thought, or said — of all the moments we’ve gasped, laughed, sighed, or cried, raised our fists in anger or our chins with pride. Life could be considered a panoply of the good, the bad, and the ugly — grandiose and the mundane in equal part.

For those of us fortunate enough to keep a record of where we’ve been, life takes on new possibilities as our experiences can travel into new realms, transforming the way that people look and see, while becoming a part of the collective memory.

“Working as a freelance photographer has given me with kind of life that many people dream of — with extensive travels throughout the world, and to witness situations that are only available to my profession,” Elliott Ewritt tells Feature Shoot on the occasion of he publication of Personal Best, his magnum opus just published by teNeues, and self-titled exhibition at PDNB Gallery, Dallas, through November 10, 2018.

Now in his 90th year, Erwitt is one of the greatest living photographers today, whose career has spanned an impressive six decades. Born in Paris to Jewish-Russian immigrants, Erwitt’s family moved to Italy before finally settling in the United States in 1939.

While serving in the United States Army, Ewritt began working as a photographer’s assistant during the early 1950s. Stationed in France and Germany, he began to meet illustrious figures like Edward Steichen and Robert Capa, who invited him to join Magnum Photos.

Throughout his career, Erwitt has produced a vast archive of work that spans genres with the ease of one who finds pure pleasure in the act of observing. Whether shooting for publications like Life and Look during the golden age of magazines or working on Madison Avenue, photographing titans of industry, one of Erwitt’s greatest gifts was the ease with which he was able to read the scene and meet the world with love.

“Going through my lifework was full of surprises. I discovered many good and bad pictures I haven’t seen in years and barely remembered,” Erwitt says of the 448-page volume. Personal Best features some of the artist’s most beloved works as well as lesser-known images that reveal the enduring beauty of life on earth.

In the book’s introduction, Sean Callahan quotes Henri Cartier-Bresson as saying, “Elliott has to my mind achieved a miracle working on a chain-gang of commercial campaigns and still offering a bouquet of stolen photos with a flavor, a smile from his deeper self.”

That deeper self appears on every page of Personal Best. Whether photographing Che Guevara, Marilyn Monroe, or John F. Kennedy, the beaches of Brazil, the parks of England, or the dogs of New York City, one thing is abundantly clear: no matter where he goes, Erwitt is always at home in the world.

Marilyn Monroe, Reno, Nevada, 1960.
Photo © 2018 Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.
From Personal Best, published by teNeues.

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France, 1977.
Photo © 2018 Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.
From Personal Best, published by teNeues.

Florida Keys, USA, 1968.
Photo © 2018 Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.
From Personal Best, published by teNeues.

. Prado Museum, Madrid, 1995.
Photo © 2018 Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.
From Personal Best, published by teNeues.

New York City, 1955.
Photo © 2018 Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos. All rights reserved.
From Personal Best, published by teNeues.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get some visual inspiration into your day!