shows archive

20 years of in focus gallery, Cologne

anniversary show: Elliott Erwitt "... about men and dogs"

Elliott Erwitt "... about men and dogs" 
Elliot Erwitt was born in France to Russian parents, but lived his first 10 years in Italy, before his family fled from Mussolini's regime to the USA. While Erwitt completed High School, he worked at a commercial photo lab where he copied signed pictures of celebrities. On his travels he met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker, key figures of a photographic generation prior to Erwitt's. In their own ways, all three became fascinated by Erwitt's mode of expression and became his photographic mentors and advisors. In 1953 he was invited by Robert Capa to become a member of Magum Photos, the most important and reputed photo agency of the age. Today he is still an active and influential member and contributes to strengthening the agency's portfolio.

Despite his age, Erwitt continues to produce pictures and is currently working on several book projects. And although he is often described as a street photographer, Erwitt does not like to define himself. "I wouldn't call myself anything. I don't wake up in the morning and think I'm going to be funny or anything like that."

The nearest he comes is the definition of craftsman, someone who works in the "traditional" manner: a Leica, a film and an aspiration to take good pictures that entertain and surprise people. You could say that his pictures show a somewhat rosier version of reality than many of his Magnum colleagues, but his pictures often have an underlying message. He wants to show us a "just-around-the-corner" slice of reality in the form of snapshots. Despite in several interviews having expressed a resistance to pushing a political agenda, Erwitt has taken a number of pictures that have subsequently come to symbolise important political issues or moments. For example his iconic picture of a dark-skinned man drinking from a shabby drinking fountain for ‘colored people', or the picture of a smoking Kennedy full of hope for the future - and three years later a devastated Jacqueline Kennedy beside her late husband's stars-andstripes-covered coffin.

Erwitt makes very little of the fact that he has photographed some of the main public figures of our times, or one of its sex symbols, Marilyn Monroe. He treats a cleaner and a celebrity in much the same way, rather focusing on getting a picture. "It is all there" Dogs are one of his favourite subjects and he has featured them in a series of pictorial books. "Why not? Dogs are expressive; they are everywhere; they are sympathetic. And they don't ask for prints."

opening hours:

opening, artist reception , November, 6th, 7.00 - 9.30 pm.
November 9th till December 4th, Tuesday till Saturday 4.00 till 8.00 pm,
till January 15th only by appointment.
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