Elliott Erwitt, the legendary photographer celebrated for his poignant documentation of American life, celebrity culture, and a unique series on dogs, passed away at the age of 95. His daughter, Sasha Erwitt, confirmed his passing on Wednesday at his Manhattan residence, as reported by The New York Times.
Magnum Photos, a prominent photography collective that Erwitt significantly influenced for over seven decades, mourned his loss. They shared on Twitter, "With deep sadness, we announce the passing of our beloved Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt.
He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his family."
Erwitt's Early Years
Born in Paris in July 1928 to Russian-Jewish parents and raised in Milan, Erwitt's life took a dramatic turn when his family immigrated to the United States in 1939, fleeing the rise of fascism under Benito Mussolini.
Settling in Los Angeles during his teenage years, Erwitt developed a passion for photography, initially taking portraits to support himself. He honed his skills at Los Angeles City College, exploring various photographic styles.
Erwitt's illustrious career spanned photojournalism and commercial photography. His work featured a range of subjects from everyday American life to high-profile personalities. His black-and-white portraits and candid street photography included iconic figures such as Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, Simone de Beauvoir, and Truman Capote.
His lens also captured significant political figures and events, including John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, the historic 1959 meeting between Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon, and portraits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1964.
However, Erwitt's dog photographs particularly resonated with the public. These images, often humorous and insightful, showcased dogs either alone or in relation to their human companions, reflecting a unique perspective on the human-animal bond.
In his 1998 photo book, "Dogdogs," Erwitt wrote, “Dogs have more to do than children. They are forced to live a schizoid life, constantly balancing the dog world against the human world, always on call for their owners' instant affection.
A dog can never have other plans, nor can he ever claim to have a headache like a wife”. Cristina de Middel, president of Magnum Photos, lauded Erwitt as "a tireless generator of icons." His photographs, she remarked, "have not only shaped our understanding of society and humanity but have also inspired countless photographers through changing industry trends and styles." De Middel admired Erwitt's blend of a casual, humorous approach to photography with his obsessive dedication, describing him as a unique artist whose loss is deeply felt.