Erwitt: An Influential Journey

Erwitt: An Influential Journey

In 1951, Elliot Erwitt was drafted into the US Army. Carrying a Leica camera with a collapsible lens in the pocket of his uniform, the practitioner captured images throughout his service, beginning an enduring legacy. Serving three terms as president of Magnum Photos after joining in 1953, the artist – now approaching his 90th birthday – is widely recognised as one of the most successful and influential photographers in the world, with a versatile and diverse oeuvre encompassing portraiture, landscape and urban documentary. Erwitt is known for his work with publications such as Collier’s, Look, Life and Holiday, and continues to contribute to a range of journalistic and commercial companies.

Beetles + Huxley, London, celebrates the anniversary with an exhibition tracking his career. Introducing a selection of previously unseen and rediscovered pieces, the work on display highlights Erwitt’s adaptability and progression. The show comprises delicate snapshots of well-known figures including Jack Kerouac, Arthur Miller, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, John F Kennedy, Salvador Dalí and Che Guevara, alongside cityscapes and chronicles of the American mid-west. The collection also features a witty, highly celebrated selection foregrounding dogs, exemplifying the photographer’s famous sense of humorous irony.

The image shown above – an early work depicting New York in 1948 – marks the photographer’s formative years. Despite receiving his education at Los Angeles City College, Erwitt returned to the city before conscription. A fascination with the locale and its residents pervades his practice, and an interest in formal arrangement and light is evident in this example. The inhabitants’ silhouettes make a bold contrast against an illuminated urban backdrop, creating a striking composition that demonstrates the practitioner’s developing eye.

From 24 January. Find out more:

1. New York City, USA, 1948 © Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos courtesy Beetles + Huxley