Elliott Erwitt | KOLOR
Elliott Erwitt is major figure of modern photography, his black and white ironic-intelligent photographs are among the most recognizable images of street photography. Until now his color work has largely been overshadowed. In Focus is presenting a global premiere 45 colour photographs of the artist .
According to Elliott Erwitt “Colour is describing. Black-and-white it is interpreting”. The photographer had followed this double track; working in colour for consignments and the advertisement and black-and-white for his informal work while wandering around with his Leica. Ironically he’s much more known today for his personal work than for the “professional” one.
In Focus gallery owner Burkhard Arnold and teNeues publishing are presenting an exhibition and a book to cover the colorful side of Erwitt’s work. Kolor is a 45 well-chosen selection displaying the essence of Erwitts extensive archive. The exhibition is held in Cologne and shows politicians, Hollywood stars, normal people and showgirls. The K in Kolor is not the German translation but stands for the Kodachrome film.
Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, 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 photography 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.
Erwitt traveled in France and Italy in 1949 with his trusty Rolleiflex camera. In 1951 he was drafted for military service and undertook various photographic duties while serving in a unit of the Army Signal Corps in Germany and France. While in New York, Erwitt met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker, the former head of the Farm Security Administration. Stryker initially hired Erwitt to work for the Standard Oil Company, where he was building up a photographic library for the company, and subsequently commissioned him to undertake a project documenting the city of Pittsburgh.
In 1953 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. To this day he is for hire and continues to work for a variety of journalistic and commercial outfits. In the late 1960s Erwitt served as Magnum’s president for three years. He then turned to film: in the 1970s he produced several noted documentaries and in the 1980s eighteen comedy films for Home Box Office. Erwitt became known for benevolent irony, and for a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum.