«You have to react to what you see, wait without prejudice. You can find photos anywhere. It's just a matter of noticing, seeing things and organizing them. You only have to worry about what surrounds you, humanity and the comedy of the human being. Word of Elliott Erwitt, one of the great masters of 20th century photography, who died this Friday at the age of 95 at his home in Manhattan.
With the death of Erwitt, the world loses the ironic and sagacious gaze of a gifted hunter of moments. A tireless notary of everyday life on the streets in search of beauty, paradoxes and impossible coincidences.
Erwitt asserted that humor "is the best way to relieve the intense seriousness of life." In his work he avoided pain, cruelty, poverty and wars. In his funny photographic games, his visual jokes with children and dogs, she never sought the ridiculous but rather the incongruous, immortalizing her comic vision of life in her snapshots.
He was much more than an extraordinary documentary and advertising photographer, areas in which he stood out. Revered by the powerful black and white images of everyday but shocking situations, he was another militant of the 'decisive moment', that crucial moment that was boldly sought by his master Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Born in 1928 in Paris, the son of Russian emigrants, Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan. At the age of eleven he had to go to the United States. He became interested in photography as a teenager when he settled with his family in Hollywood.
He returned to France in 1949. In 1953 he met Robert Capa, who saw some of the young Erwitt's work and predicted a great future for him. He invited him to join the legendary Magnum agency that Capa had founded with Henri Cartier-Bresson and David Seymour 'Chim'. He would never abandon it and would serve as its president for several periods.
Like his colleagues at Magnum, Erwitt defended “direct and unmanipulated” photojournalism. But unlike the dry, unflappable realism promulgated by Capa or Cartier-Bresson, Erwitt brought a clear intentionality to his gaze. Sometimes he resorted to nostalgia, other times to paradox or social denunciation, and almost always to a sense of humor. For six decades he used his Rolleiflex and Leica cameras to tell jokes about the most everyday situations. A humor in which he used children and animals. Especially dogs, protagonists of many of his photographs. He dedicated three monographs to dogs - 'Son of Bitch', 'To the Dogs' and 'Woof', the onomatopoeia of barking in English - but he also portrayed characters as popular as Marilyn Monroe, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Jacqueline Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Muhammad Ali, Simone de Beauvoir or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
«My work has no mystery; When I see something that catches my attention, I shoot at the target; that's all," said Erwitt on his visit to our country as a Guest of PhotoEspaña in 2002. "When faced with a good photograph, what you have to do is look at it and shut up," he said with a very serious attitude, leaving that sense of humor of the that he showed off in his images.
He worked for magazines such as 'Life', 'Collier's', 'Look', 'Holiday' and other publications in the golden age of illustrated magazines. He participated in the famous 'Family Man' exhibition, organized by the MOMA in New York in 1955. Years later, capitalizing on his enormous prestige, he worked for the White House. In the seventies he began as a filmmaker. He produced several documentaries and eighteen comedy films for HBO. His images are in the most important museums and galleries around the world.