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Elliott Erwitt has become one of the most recognized photographers of the twentieth century. At 87 years old, the artist presents numerous photo exhibitions around the world, among others in museums of modern art in New York and Paris, and his recent exhibition at Maison Européenne has broken all attendance records in the gallery's history. While it was black and white photography that brought Erwitt fame, color photographs as a separate layer of his work were discovered relatively recently.
We meet with Elliott at his studio in New York shortly after his arrival from Cuba, where he photographed the country's landscapes as a special project for one of the leading local brands. Our task is to learn as much as possible about the fundamental principles of his work, about the upcoming exhibition in Moscow, at which the artist will present the KOLOR collection for the first time. We sit at his huge table, closer to the creative mess. The attention is immediately drawn to black and white photographs all over the wall, looking at you from all sides, easels on which Marilyn Monroe and famous pictures of dogs are placed, along with numerous shelves of his own books. "You seem to be a truly legendary photographer!" - we say casually. - "Truth? This is news to me."
Erwitt is one of the few contemporary photographers who began their careers during the dawn of modern photojournalism. Since the 1950s, he has traveled to many countries without letting go of his camera. Elliott is in a hurry to share with us a historical anecdote about how he wandered into the opening of the American National Industrial Exhibition in Moscow, where the "kitchen debate" between Nixon and Khrushchev suddenly flared up. As a result, Nixon owed a surge in popularity to Erwitt: the picture taken that day was used for the subsequent election campaign (which, incidentally, was lost). “Thank God he didn't win! Elliott exclaims. "I wouldn't forgive myself for that.
Elliott Erwitt is most famous for his black and white documentary and street photography, many of which have become iconic. In his arsenal, portraits of Marlene Dietrich and Simone de Beauvoir are side by side with images of political leaders: Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Kennedy … There are no less reportage photos: both from Hollywood filming and from the parade on Red Square. In the past, he has used color primarily for commercial work - advertising and magazines. “For a long time, my preference was for pure black and white photography,” admits Elliott. “Once, when I started using color film, I crossed a certain threshold: if color simply conveys reality, then monochrome interprets it.” Well, the vast majority of Erwitt's works do not need comments, they have long gone down in history, as well as a sense of humor,through the prism of which he primarily looks at the world. “I'm a bit of a satirist,” or “it was such fun,” phrases that abounded in our two-hour conversation.
He tells us about his recent escapade when he decided to "make fun of some aspect of contemporary art" by creating a fictional character - his alter ego - the photographer Andre Solidor, "born somewhere in the French colony in the Caribbean.
Not everyone with a camera is a good photographer, just like not everyone with a pen is a good writer.
Bresson and Erwitt worked together for many years and were friends: “I am overwhelmed with admiration for his work. In Bresson's photographs, there is always an amazing composition, an interesting plot and, most importantly, a hell of a lot of magic … "Elliott recalls how he was a frequent guest in Henri's Paris apartment and how they once had a chance to organize a small party with Federico Fellini to preview the first editing of his film" 8 ½ " …
Erwitt was born in Paris in 1928 to a family of Russian emigrants. Before the family of the future photographer moved to America (and he was then 10 years old), they lived in Milan, but were soon forced to flee from the Mussolini regime. At the age of 16, Elliott found his first job in a darkroom. “This is how, thanks to the fascists, I became a photographer: I needed a job just to survive, I was left on my own,” he explains his original motive, “but soon I developed a deeper interest in the business and then I bought my first camera. for $ 5 ".
“At first they were pictures of my school friends and neighbors,” Elliott recalls, but in 1953 his talent was noticed by Robert Capa, who invited Erwitt to work for Magnum, a renowned photo agency that covered all the most important events in the world. It was there, according to Elliott, that his writing style was already developed, thanks in part to his work hand in hand with Bresson."
When you talk about adherence to "good photography", what exactly do you mean?
- Correctly placed shot, interesting content, composition and, perhaps, a little magic. And it still cannot be explained in words.
"Not everyone who has a camera in their hands is a good photographer, just like not everyone who owns a pen is a good writer," - thinking, Elliott nevertheless complements his thought. Perhaps if there is anything that can characterize Erwitt's work, it is undoubtedly his ability to capture "magic
Elliott also always speaks of his works without a shadow of pathos and even with a certain concentrated frivolity. Sometimes it seems that the whole variety of his photographs cannot be reduced to any one creative mission: he photographed dogs, filmed stars and politicians, for decades recorded the passing history with his camera, and made commercial projects. He is a photojournalist and an artist, and this is what makes him special. At the same time, Erwitt's handwriting always remains unchanged - he catches the ironic in the everyday and the phantasmagoric in the banal, and his works are always humane. Perhaps it was Cartier-Bresson who hit the spot when he said: "Erwitt's photographs are wit and depth, but without literalism."
The KOLOR exhibition - 45 selected color photographs that show different starting points in the career of Elliott Erwitt - is a kind of personal discovery for the artist himself, because these negatives have been stored in the archive for decades. The title of the series is dedicated to color itself and to the inventor of color film, George Eastman (who chose the name "Kodak" for euphony in any language). Elliott salutes him with the letter "K
See rare color photographs of Elliott Erwitt at the Center for Photography. Lumiere brothers Moscow viewers can from October 3 to December 6, and black and white, included in his large-scale retrospective in the Central House of Artists, from October 9 to December 10 inclusive.