Thursday, 24 February 2011

Misha Erwitt

Elliott Erwitt is probably one of my favourite Magnum photographers. In recent years his pictures have been well very published -- Taschen and others have done some superb productions of his books and new and rarely seen work has come out in considerable quantity.

His austere B&W photos are often funny, charming, witty -- and always humane. There's virtually nothing he can't do with a camera. From the simplest, most classical composition -- like this, in which there is just a beautiful object (Pablo Casals' cello) and the careful rendition of light, tones and textures, the art that lies at the heart of B&W photography; to this, a smudged, slow, melancholy river-side moment in NYC -- Erwitt's pictures give immense pleasure.

Amongst his most famous -- and touching -- pictures must be this one of Lucienne, his first wife, with their daughter and a rescue cat in their Manhattan apartment.

There's a lovely article about it here written by Misha, Erwitt's son. And no, as Misha is at pains to emphasise, he is not the naked baby in the picture: that's his sister, Ellen.

This is family photography as public history.

And a quick update (15/09/11): I've just discovered a great Erwitt slideshow on the Time blog here. This is a lovely selection, the scans are good and there's a full screen feature (don't miss the button top-right like I did). But best of all the pictures have Erwitt's own gruff, laconic, no bullshit captions.

I never look at Erwitt pictures without coming away feeling slightly better and lighter of heart. How many photographers can you say that about?