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“You know how people race through the Smithsonian, going like an express train because there’s so much to see. I had a big exhibit there, and I often went to count the house. People would rush through my hall until about half or a third of the way through…and then they’d suddenly stop, and start all over again, because something didn’t seem quite right. Their eye hadn’t caught the whole picture right away. They’d go back, and then it was just marvellous….People laughing, being interested in a way that was very rewarding to me. Terrific reaction! I loved watching people race in, stop, and start all over. I went back several times.” –Elliott Erwitt

Pictures have to do with heart and mind and eye and they have to communicate and as long as they do that, it’s valid

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 UK, 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.

© Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos

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