Arts & Culture

But Seriously: An Erwitt Exhibition at the Magnum Gallery

The Magnum Gallery commemorates the timeless impact of Erwitt’s wholehearted expressions of joy and curiosity in a new exhibition in Paris.

Glass Pyramid by the Louvre Museum. Paris, France, 1989. All images currently on view at the Magnum Gallery in Paris. © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

“I’m not a serious photographer like many of my contemporaries,” Elliott Erwitt once wrote. “That is to say, I am serious about not being serious.” In a new exhibition at the Magnum Gallery in Paris, on view until May 25, we celebrate the life, work, and legacy of the great photographer through a collection of more than 30 works from his 70-year career. 

On November 29, 2023, Erwitt passed away at the age of 95 surrounded by family in his Manhattan home. Over several decades, Erwitt captured everything from the mundane to the monumental with incredible care, humor, and dedication — piquing the fascination of millions. From the start, he succeeded in both his commercial and personal projects, garnering praise and admiration from his peers who found striking the same balance far more difficult.

Bridgehampton, New York, USA, 1990.
New York, USA, 1953.

Adamantly against pretension both in his work and toward his subjects, he said, “For me, photography is about finding something interesting in an ordinary place. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

Paris, France, 1958.
Wairers and chef at the Hôtel Ritz. Paris, France, 1969.

"When the photograph happens, it comes easily, as a gift that should not be questioned or analyzed."

Che Guevara. Havana, Cuba, 1964.
Provence, France, 1955.

How Erwitt saw cities like Paris, Pittsburgh, and New York transformed the ways people connected to those places and the stories they’ve told about them. His portraits of iconic figures like Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara, and Richard Nixon became imprinted on the public imagination and helped shape their legacies.

Paris, France, 1989.

Dogs were one subject he always liked, and he wasn’t shy about his fondness either, publishing four books dedicated to them during his lifetime. The endearing images provide a heartwarming and insightful look into humanity and its bond with canines, making that work some of the most adored in his remarkable oeuvre. The photographs he made of romantic partnerships show a sense of intimacy that seems both rare and ubiquitous, with a charm that’s difficult to explain. He’d caution against reading too much into any image though, saying at one time, “When the photograph happens, it comes easily, as a gift that should not be questioned or analyzed.”

London, England, 1978.

Elliott Erwitt: But Seriously brings together black-and-white photographs that exemplify the combination of wit, absurdity, and elegance wholly characteristic of his work and perspective. There are perfect pairs and unlikely ones, dogs of all sorts and people much the same, observers and unsuspecting subjects abound — all perfectly framed with unmatched playfulness and simplicity that embrace and champion what it is to be human.

Fort Dix, New Jersey, USA, 1951.

"This is photography at its best. "

- Samantha McCoy, Magnum Gallery Director
A painting of Gabrielle d'Estrées (mistress of Henri IV) and her sister, the duchess of Villards by an anonymous painter. Paris, France, 1975.

Samantha McCoy, Gallery Director states: “The impact Elliott’s work had on the canon of 20th-century photography, and on his Magnum colleagues, cannot be understated. His work is as meaningful for someone who has never seen photography before to a photography connoisseur. Looking at each of the pieces in this show is life-affirming. His photos continue to bring a smile to my face. This is photography at its best.”

Shangarry, Ireland, 1982.

Elliott Erwitt: But Seriously will be exhibited at the Magnum Gallery (68 rue Léon Frot, Paris 75011) from March 8 to May 25. Plan your visit here

Works exhibited are available to acquire. For inquiries, please email the Magnum Gallery at 

More on this: 

Remembering Elliott Erwitt (1928–2023)

Messages to Erwitt From Magnum Colleagues and Friends

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