Elliott Erwitt (b. 26 July 1928 Paris, France) is an advertising and documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings a master of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”. In 1939, at the age of ten, Erwitt’s family, of Russian origin, immigrated to the United States. Erwitt studied photography and filmmaking at Los Angeles City College and the New School for Social Research, finishing his education in 1950.
Born in Paris of Jewish-Russian immigrant parents, Erwitt served as a photographer’s assistant in the 1950s in the United States Army while stationed in France and Germany. Erwitt was influenced by his meeting the famous photographers, Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker. Stryker, the former Director of the Farm Security Administration’s photography department, hired Erwitt to work on a photography project for the Standard Oil Company. Erwitt then began a freelance photographer career and produced work for Collier’s, Look, Life and Holiday. Joining the Magnum Photos agency in 1953 allowed Erwitt to shoot photography projects around the world.
One of the subjects Erwitt has frequently photographed in his career is dogs: they have been the subject of four of his books, Son of Bitch (1974), Dog Dogs (1998), Woof (2005) and Elliott Erwitt’s Dogs (2008).
More recently, Erwitt has created an alter ego, the beret-wearing and pretentious André S. Solidor (which abbreviates to “ass”) “a contemporary artist, from one of the French colonies in the Caribbean, I forget which one”, in order to “satirise the kooky excesses of contemporary photography”. The work of said alter-ego was published in a book, The Art of André S. Solidor (2009), and exhibited in 2011 at the Paul Smith Gallery in London.
He was awarded The Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography in 2002.