In September 1950 22-year-old Elliott Erwitt stepped off a Greyhound bus in Pittsburgh and set out to capture the city’s transformation from industry to a modern metropolis. He was commissioned by Roy Stryker from the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration who had been behind the large-scale documentary photography projects launched by the US government during the Great Depression. Erwitt’s images recorded communities against the backdrop of urban change.

You can find pictures anywhere. It's simply a matter of noticing things and organizing them

Elliott Erwitt
© Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos

Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, Elliott Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939. As a teenager living in Hollywood, he developed an interest in photography and worked in a commercial darkroom before experimenting with at Los Angeles City College. In 1948, he moved to New York and exchanged janitorial work for film classes at the New School for Social Research.

Five years later, Erwitt joined Magnum Photos and worked as a freelance photographer for Collier’s, Look, LIFE, Holiday and other luminaries in that golden period for illustrated magazines. He has made significant bodies of work in America, Cuba, the U.K., France, Italy and beyond. In the 1970s, he produced several notable documentaries and in the 1980s eighteen comedy films for HBO.

Erwitt has become known for benevolent irony, and for a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum. To this day, he is for hire and continues to work for a variety of journalistic and commercial outfits.

© Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos

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