One of the foremost photographers of the 20th century and who will no doubt pave the way for photographers in the 21st century, Elliott Erwitt has photographed the world for over 50 years and continues to find humor and irony in the everyday life experiences of dogs and the people they own.
Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian émigré, Erwitt moved to Los Angles in the 1940s. He took up photography before being drafted into the US Army in 1950. He made a name for himself with his thought provoking photo-essays which graced the pages of the world’s leading photographic magazines including Time and Life. He also has many solo exhibitions to his credit.
A member of the prestigious Magnum agency since 1953, Erwitt’s work spans five decades. Capturing both the famous and the ordinary, Erwitt lens has captured fleeting moments on city streets, has given us a glimpse of the beautiful Marilyn Monroe lounging with a book on her downtime and a rarely seen jovial portrait of notoriously staunch revolutionary, Che Guevara. As a photojournalist, commercial photographer, artist and filmmaker, he has ventured around the globe in pursuit of his craft and along the way has captured an enormous number of dogs along the way. Centering his work primarily on the observation of people and animals, together or separately, Erwitt style is deceptively simple and instantly recognizable. Erwitt’s pictures immortalize life’s poignant ironies without effort, a gift that has won him the acclaim of critics and fans alike.
Those who do not recognize Erwitt by name will know his infamous dog pictures collected in photographic volumes like To the Dogs, and DogDogs. In fact, Erwitt has authored over six books and is in the process of composing is seventh entitled Woof dedicated to canines scratching, sleeping, snacking and doing other things dogs do best. All curious and amusing, the photographs capture dogs’ spontaneous, calculated, and compromising poses taken all over the world. His affinity for dogs translates to a particular empathy that comes through his photographs. Many of these “snaps” as Erwitt refers to them, are shot on the level of the dog giving us a “dog’s eye view.” Dogs become the focal point of the image no matter how small staring steadily into the lens, confident of its place in its world.
The choice to photograph dogs was an easy one, besides being everywhere, Erwitt says in his essay nestled in middle of 400 snap shots contained in DogDogs that “dogs are easy uncomplaining targets.” Although he concedes that dogs do not necessarily make better subject than humans, he says instead that “it depends on the dog and it depends on the person.
Often comparing dogs to their owners, Erwitt says “it’s true people do look like their dogs.” One will find that the bulldog is indeed led by a somewhat jowly owner and that the poodle does look as prim as their master. With sparing captions, Erwitt just informs the viewer of the place and the year that the “snap” was taken. He says, “a picture is worth a thousand words, why should I do the work for them,” thus each pictures meaning is left up to the individual.
Erwitt’s dog photographs have not just charmed dog lovers but animal lovers of all kind. Erwitt who sometimes portraits of dogs with their owners has received several requests to do pictures of horses. With a growl and a bark, Erwitt gages the dogs attention long enough to get the indelible image of the ankle high Chihuahua outfitted in winter hat and sweater or the seemingly levitating Yorkie roaming through a desolate lot.
Animal Fair has the honor to present the photographs of Elliott Erwitt, which span the more than five decades of his career. Be sure to look for more dog snap shots in Erwitt upcoming release of his book Woof. Enjoy!