May 22, 2017
By Courtney Hollis | September 7, 2016 | Culture
UT's Ransom Center celebrates famed photographer Elliott Erwitt with more than 200 images from seven decades.
Reno, Nevada, 1960
With a career spanning nearly 70 years and counting, world traveler, filmmaker, and photojournalist Elliott Erwitt has no shortage of celebrated work. Now through January 1, the Harry Ransom Center, which acquired Erwitt’s photography collection in 2015, will present the most comprehensive exhibit of his life and career with “Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World.”
“His signature style is that he can do anything,” remarks exhibit curator Jessica McDonald, who for the past three years has dedicated herself to studying the 47,500-piece collection of silver gelatin prints. Among those included in the exhibit are celebrated works as well as rare photographs, all of which feel timeless regardless of when taken.
New York, New York, 1953
Born in Paris to Jewish-Russian parents in 1928, Erwitt and his family moved to Milan and immigrated to the US at the onset of World War II, first in New York and then Los Angeles. His experience with displacement and alienation translates into an ability to deliver a sense of connectivity, regardless of place.
Traveling the world on his own for most of his life, Erwitt developed an affinity for other lone figures. He finds connections with dogs and children; museums are also subjects he returns to often throughout his work. His diverse portfolio shows the two sides of Erwitt: One as a professional photographer who travels with political figures and goes behind the scenes with celebrities, the other as someone who enjoys photographing family and friends.
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1953
This exhibition aims to merge these two worlds and to question whether those categories are really separate. “One thing that hasn’t really been done before is tracing a lot of these photographs back to their original contexts,” McDonald says. Often Erwitt used outtakes from family photo shoots for advertisements, while his photojournalism assignments ended up in his own books.
“That’s one of the messages we want to communicate—that his whole life has been invested in this,” the curator adds. Accompanying the exhibit is the Harry Ransom Center and Aperture’s partnered release of an unprecedented catalog that includes four extensive essays on Erwitt. “This is really the first publication like this,” says McDonald, explaining that catalogs featuring Erwitt’s work have yet to include writings by scholars as a subject of study. 300 W. 21st St., 512-471-8944
PhotograPhy courtesy of harry ransom center © ellliott erwitt/magnum Photos