Sunday, August 21, 2011

THE MASTER OF THE 'DECISIVE MOMENT'





Elliott Erwitt
By Nicolas Megoran at nicmegoran.wordpress.com


Elliott Erwitt is an advertising and documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings—the master of the "decisive moment".
(WIKIPEDIA)
Born in Paris in 1928 to parents who had emigrated there from Russia, much of Mr. Erwitt’s first 10 years were spent in Italy. In 1938 his parents returned to Paris. Their stay was short-lived, however, as his father was Jewish and the approach of World War II and Hitler’s armies factored heavily into the family’s decision to leave Europe. They sailed to the United States, settling in Los Angeles.
(Tom Clavin at 27east.com)
Erwitt’s linguistic facility – he also speaks French and some Russian – is the legacy of his nomadic childhood. His Russian-Jewish family lived in Milan before fleeing Mussolini in 1938. After spells in France and New York, they settled in Los Angeles in 1941.
It should have been the beginning of the American Dream but the reality was grittier. His parents divorced and, although his father got custody, Erwitt senior subsequently skipped town to avoid alimony payments. “At the age of 15, I was on my own and had to fend for myself,” recalls the snowy-haired photographer.
He found work processing celebrity prints in a Hollywood darkroom, and started taking his own snaps with no idea that his talent was out of the ordinary. “I just did it. It evolved.”
Touchingly, Erwitt is devoid of bitterness at his father’s betrayal. He describes him as “a wonderful man” who, after working as “an engineer, a not very good businessman and a Buddhist priest”, became a photographer himself. “He said he wanted ‘to follow in the footsteps of his son’.”
Erwitt père had a tough act to follow. Erwitt is one of the most respected photographers of a generation that encompasses Robert Frank, Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander. He has published more than 30 books, made numerous documentary films and exhibited in venues including MoMA and the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Yet he remains the most shy and self-deprecating of characters. He describes his 60-year career as “a pleasant experience”;
(Rachel Spence at FINACIAL TIMES at ft.com)
Mr. Erwitt attended Hollywood High School and Los Angeles City College, and it was during these years that his infatuation with photography began. As many talented and ambitious young people did after the war, he headed east, to New York, where he took photography courses at the New School for Social Research.
Further training was provided by the U.S. Army after Mr. Erwitt was drafted. He served as a photographer’s assistant during his time in the military.
Returning to civilian life in New York, Mr. Erwitt fell in with Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and a few other notable photographers. He was then hired to shoot commercial photography projects and his work also appeared in Life and Look magazines and other national publications.
The influence of the legendary French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson can be seen in much of Mr. Erwitt’s most famous photos, shots taken at what has been called the “decisive moment.” Such photos were taken right when something happened, someone was wearing a particular expression, or there was a humorous juxtaposition of people or people and animals.
(Tom Clavin at 27east.com)


USA California, 1955
From kunstmeranoarte.org


Jacqueline Kennedy at John F. Kennedy's Funeral
From allartnews.com


Marilyn Monroe, 1956
From kunstmeranoarte.org


Marilyn Monroe, 1956
From theworldofphotographers.wordpress.com


The Misfits
From thisismarilyn.com


Fidel Castro
Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos
From nytimes.com


USSR Moscow, 1957
By Nicolas Megoran at nicmegoran.wordpress.com


Interesting story behind this photo (above) as it was taken in Moscow in 1957. The Height of Marcrthyism in America and just after high Stalinism. He could not take the film out of the country as the Russians would X ray his baggage and ruin the film. This photo Elliot had to develop in Russia in a bath and take the footage to Helsinki to Wire across to America. This Photo appeared everywhere in the news media. At a time of little information about the secretive nation this image said a lot.
(Nicolas Megoran at nicmegoran.wordpress.com)


V President Nixon and Soviet P Minister Nikita Kruschev, 1959
From phaidon.com


V President Nixon and Soviet P Minister Nikita Kruschev, 1959
By Nicolas Megoran at nicmegoran.wordpress.com


Many of Erwitt’s photographs were taken as commercial assignments, so he did not necessarily choose the subjects in those instances. Those assignments did allow him to take pictures of some pretty incredible things, like Marilyn Monroe, Fidel Castro and the infamous “kitchen debate” between Nixon and Khrushchev  (above). And his knack for communicating the feeling of a moment applied to his commercial work as well.
The tension of this moment is palpable; you can really feel the intensity of the argument with the scene that Erwitt has captured. Every subject in the composition is essential to the feel of the photo. This picture makes Nixon seem like a rather imposing figure. He comes across as the larger man in proportion to Khrushchev. He appears to be imposing his size on him, while pushing his finger into his chest. Meanwhile, Khrushchev appears blasé; he is seemingly unfazed by Nixon’s attempts to intimidate him. The intensity of this scene is only amplified by the look of concentration and concern on the translators face.
This photo of the kitchen debate employs many of the elements of design that make photographs great. First off, Nixon and Khrushchev are aligned on a segment of the ‘rule of thirds’ graph. This makes the picture balanced, and allows for a better sense of the background of the scene. The photo also captures emotions and the unexpected. It is pretty interesting and unexpected for two leaders of powerful countries to be in such a battle of body language. The image of Nixon with his finger buried in Khrushchev’s chest is pretty interesting, considering the cold war environment at the time. The emotions that Erwitt captures in the faces of the people in the composition probably parallel the emotions of the American people at that time.
(jessechimz.wordpress.com)
Elliott Erwitt's photo sequences leave his subjects multiply exposed, as the mood of one frame is shattered in the next. It's all very well for a photograph to still life and immobilizes a moment, but we can't help wondering what comes next, when time resumes and the transfixed bodies stop pretending to be dead.
Elliott Erwitt's sequences reveal the afterlife of photographs, in cinematic jump cuts that show people or animals kinetically recovering from the poses that the camera inflicts on them. Once a tragedy ends, the human comedy is bound to resume.
The old woman in the cemetery goes through the slow motions of grief at the pace of a halting funeral march. She stands in sad contemplation, or bows as she adjusts the flowers on the grave. Her dog – respectful, patient, or perhaps merely bored – sits to make itself comfortable for the duration of the ceremony. Then, in the third frame this ritualized composure breaks down. As soon as the woman trudges away, the dog rolls over to scratch its back and rejoices with its legs in the air. Have the first two frames told us a sentimental lie? The dog probably did not even belong to the grieving woman; otherwise it would have left when she did – unless, of course, it dropped dead in the gap between the second and third exposures. Erwitt's joke is compassionate or cynical according to taste.
(Peter Conrad, the Observer at guardian.co.uk)
Since the 1970s, he has devoted much of his energy toward movies. His feature films, television commercials, and documentary films include "Arthur Penn: the Director" (1970), Beauty Knows No Pain (1971), Red, White and Bluegrass (1973) and the prize-winning Glassmakers of Herat, Afghanistan (1977). He was, as well, credited as Camera Operator for "Gimme Shelter" (1970), Still Photographer for "Bob Dylan: No Direction Home" (2005), and provided Addition Photography for "Get Yer Ya Ya's Out (2009).
(WIKIPEDIA)
Beauty Knows No Pain is a film about the young ladies who come from all over the country to compete in a two-week drill, knowing that not all of them will make the cut. Through the difficult but rewarding process, Miss Davis tries to imbue her charges with enthusiasm, energy, and a non-stop smile.
The latter part of the film focuses on one member from North Dakota, who, in her second year, has embodied all of the spirit the Rangerettes represent. At the end of the two week camp, the girls gather to see who is in, who has been chosen as an alternate, and who will go home unfulfilled. The girls meet their triumph and disappointment with shrieks and tears.
(nationalfilmnetwork.com)
Gimme Shelter is the landmark documentary about the tragically ill-fated Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont Speedway on December 6, 1969. Only four months earlier, Woodstock defined the Love Generation; now it lay in ruins on a desolate racetrack six miles
outside of San Francisco. Before an estimated crowd of 300,000 people, the Stones headlined a free concert featuring
Tina Turner, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers and others. Concerned about security, members of outlaw biker gang The Hell's Angels were asked to help maintain order. Instead, an atmosphere of fear and dread arose, leading ultimately to the stabbing death of a fan. What began as a flower-power love-in had degenerated into a near riot; frightened, confused faces wondering how the Love Generation could, in one swift, cold-blooded slash, became a generation of disillusionment and disappointment. December 6, 1969: the day the Sixties died.
(mayslesfilms.com)


Paris 1989 tour Eiffel 100th Anniversary
From kunstmeranoarte.org


The only mildly surprising thing about Elliott Erwitt being given the International Center of Photography’s “2011 Infinity Award for Lifetime Achievement” in May was that it should have been bestowed upon him a lot sooner than two months before his 83rd birthday. And maybe at a time when he wasn’t so busy accepting similar awards.
“I’ve had four of them in the last few months,” said Mr. Erwitt, who lives in East Hampton and Manhattan. He added with his characteristic humor, “They’re piling up. My life must be over. I’m not going to refuse any more of them, though, because you get a free meal and people say nice things about you.”
(Tom Clavin at 27east.com)
With a touch of humor and an eye for the humane, Elliott Erwitt's black and white photographs reveal the most basic and candid human emotions. He developed his vision during the post-war rise of documentary photojournalism, and has captured many of life's most poignant ironies through an amusing vernacular.
His personal work has been published in countless monographs, and he has been a member of the prestigious Magnum agency since 1953. His photographs are collected and exhibited in museums around the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago; and Kunsthaus, Zurich.
(ROBERT KOCH GALLERY at kochgallery.com)


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