Photographers You Should Study

Elliot Erwitt: Master of Humorous Photography

American Photographer

Elliot Erwitt

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Elliot Erwitt – Wikipedia

Elliot Erwitt [1928 – 2023] was a renowned American photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings. 

Born in Paris to Russian émigré parents, Erwitt spent his childhood in Italy before moving to the United States. 

His career began in the 1940s, and he gained prominence in the 1950s as a freelance photographer and as a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos, co-founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson. 

Erwitt’s work is characterized by his playful and humorous approach, capturing both the mundane and the iconic with a keen sense of timing and composition. 

His photographs have been featured in publications worldwide, and he has published several books and held numerous exhibitions globally.

Read the full Biography below.

Photography Quotes From Elliot Erwitt

"Photography is an art of observation. It has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them." - Elliot Erwitt
"A picture should be looked at - not talked about" - Elliot Erwitt
"I am a professional photographer by trade and an amatuer photographer by voocation." Elliot Erwitt
"Nothing happens when you sit at home. I always make it a point to carry a camera with me at all times... I just shoot at what interests me at the moment." - Elliot Erwitt
"You don't study photography, you just do it." - Elliot Erwitt
"All the technique in the world doesn't compensate for the inability to notice." - Elliot Erwitt
📸 Did you know?
Erwitt has a well-documented love for dogs, which has led to several photography books solely dedicated to canines. His playful and affectionate dog portraits are among his most beloved works.

Videos about Elliot Erwitt

📸 Did you know?
Despite his fame as a photographer, Erwitt also directed comedic and satirical films under the pseudonym “André S. Solidor” (which abbreviates to “ass”)—a humorous alter ego he created to explore more eccentric and avant-garde themes.

Photography Books: Elliot Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt' New York: Revised Edition
Dog Dogs by Elliott Erwitt (2002) Hardcover
Personal Best Hardcover by Elliott Erwitt
Found Not Lost Hardcover by Elliot Erwitt
Elliott Erwitt's Paris
Personal Exposures First Edition
by Elliott Erwitt
Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World
Elliott Erwitt's Dogs
📸 Did you know?
Erwitt was once commissioned to take the official portrait of U.S. President John F. Kennedy. His ability to capture both the formal and candid moments of life made him a sought-after photographer for high-profile assignments.

Biography of Elliot Erwitt

Early Life and Emigration 

Elliot Erwitt, born Elio Romano Erwitz on July 26, 1928, in Paris, France, to Russian-Jewish immigrants, spent his early childhood in Milan, Italy. 

Due to the rise of Fascist regimes in Europe, Erwitt’s family moved to the United States in 1939, settling in Los Angeles. 

This early experience of displacement and migration would later influence his nuanced view of the world, reflected in his photography that often captures both the humor and pathos of everyday life.

Education and Early Interest in Photography 

Erwitt’s interest in photography began as a teenager in Hollywood, where he worked in a commercial darkroom processing celebrity portraits. 

This experience exposed him to the nuances of photographic technique and sparked his lifelong passion for photography. 

After high school, he moved to New York City to attend the New School for Social Research, studying photography under Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Erwitt’s time in New York further honed his skills and shaped his artistic identity.

Career Beginnings 

Erwitt served in the U.S. Army as a photographer’s assistant during the 1950s, a period that allowed him to travel and refine his craft. 

Following his military service, he returned to New York and began working as a freelance photographer, taking jobs in advertising and magazine photography. 

His big break came when he met the esteemed photographers Robert Capa and Edward Steichen, who recognized his talent. 

In 1953, at the invitation of Robert Capa, Erwitt joined Magnum Photos, the prestigious cooperative agency founded by photographers for photographers. This membership launched his international career, allowing him to capture significant historical moments.

Magnum Photos and Documentary Projects 

As a member of Magnum Photos, Erwitt traveled extensively, undertaking assignments that showcased his unique style, marked by wit, irony, and a deep humanism. 

His projects have spanned a broad spectrum, from iconic portraits of figures such as Che Guevara and Marilyn Monroe to intimate, candid snapshots of everyday life. 

Erwitt’s ability to convey profound messages through simple, eloquent imagery became his signature.

Notable Works and Exhibitions 

Erwitt’s photographs are celebrated worldwide for their insight and levity, particularly his candid shots of dogs, which have become a recurring theme in his work, capturing the quirky and beloved aspects of canine companions. 

His books, exhibitions, and prints have been widely acclaimed. Notable exhibitions include retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. 

His books, such as “Personal Exposures” and “The Art of André S. Solidor,” a satirical alter-ego, showcase his versatility and wit.

Style and Technique 

Known for his black and white candid shots, Erwitt’s photography is characterized by a playful juxtaposition of subjects, a keen sense of timing, and an ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. 

His work often depicts a spontaneous moment that tells a larger story, reflecting his belief that photography can capture the humor, tragedy, and beauty of the human condition.

Legacy and Influence 

Erwitt’s legacy in the field of photography is significant. He has inspired generations of photographers with his ability to blend documentary precision with personal expression. 

His photographs, which often reflect a joyful absurdity and poignant reality of life, have contributed to the cultural landscape, capturing moments of human history with empathy and humor.


Elliot Erwitt passed away in New York City on November 29, 2023. His extensive career has made him one of the foremost photographers of his generation. 

His work, a blend of documentary seriousness and playful curiosity, offers a unique window into the joys and sorrows of human life, making him a celebrated figure in the world of photography and beyond. 

His enduring influence and contributions secure his place as a pivotal figure in capturing the human experience through the lens of photography.

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