July 16, 2024

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Elliott Erwitt, photographer of celebs and dogs, dead at 95

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Elliott Erwitt, a photographer known for his work documenting dogs, celebrities and American life, has died. He was 95.

His daughter, Sasha Erwitt, confirmed to the New York Times that Erwitt died on Wednesday in his Manhattan home.

Magnum Photos, a photography collective he helped lead for more than 70 years, announced his death on Thursday, writing in a tweet, “It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of beloved Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt. He died peacefully at home surrounded by family.”

A photo by Elliott Erwitt showing Truman Capote greeting guests at his “Black and White Ball” at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1966, as seen in the documentary “The Capote Tapes.”

(©Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos)

Erwitt was born in Paris in July 1928 to Russian-Jewish parents, according to Magnum Photos. Much of his childhood was spent in Milan, Italy. But in 1939, he and his family immigrated to the United States as fascism grew under Benito Mussolini. As a teenager living in Los Angeles, Erwitt took up photography and started taking portraits to make money. He studied at Los Angeles City College, where he continued experimenting more with photos.

Throughout his career as a photojournalist and commercial photographer, Erwitt captured both the everyday American and high-profile figures in black-and-white portraits and candid street photos. Among his celebrity subjects were Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly, Jack Kerouac, William Carlos Williams, Simone de Beauvoir and Truman Capote.

He also photographed world leaders and their families, such as John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. He shot moments during the famous diplomatic meeting between Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and then-Vice President Richard Nixon in 1959. He also took portraits of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in 1964.

But what often stood out to the general public were Erwitt’s photos of dogs, frequently injected with humor and wit. They are either solo shots of dogs or photos showing how the pets stood in relationship with their human owners.

“Dogs have more to do than children,” he wrote in his 1998 photo book, “Dogdogs.”

“For one thing, they are forced to lead a life that is really schizoid. Every minute, they have to live on two planes at once, juggling the dog world against the human world. And they’re always on call. Their owners want instant affection every day, any time of day. A dog can never say that he has other things to do. He can never have a headache, like a wife.”

Cristina de Middel, Magnum’s president, called Erwitt “a tireless generator of icons” whose images “have helped build our general understanding of who we are as a society and as humans, and have inspired generations of photographers despite the changes in the industry and trends.”

She added, “The combination of his casual and humoristic approach to the act of photographing, and his obsessive dedication, made him a unique artist that we have lost today with great sadness.”

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