"Elliott has to my mind achieved a miracle, working in a chain-gang of commercial campaigns and still offering a bouquet of stolen photos with a flavour, a smile from his deeper self." So said Herni Cartier-Bresson on Elliott Erwitt, one of the most important American photographers of the past seven decades.
Erwitt is the subject of the latest exhibition to grace the Print Room, a pioneering online gallery that shows temporary exhibitions through high-definition digital images. Elliott Erwitt: Uncovered features work from throughout his career, including those from the set of The Misfits, Marilyn Monroe's final film.
Run by Beetles+Huxley Gallery, the Print Room was created as a riposte to the potential inaccessibility of the private gallery. By displaying each image openly and clearly, it hopes to engage those put off by the traditional model.
The son of Jewish-Russian émigrés, Erwitt was born in France and grew up in Italy, before emigrating to the United States with his family. As a teenager in Los Angeles, he worked in a darkroom creating prints of Hollywood celebrities.
Upon reaching 20, he traveled through Europe both alone and as a draftee in the US Army, during which time he worked as a freelance photographer. Having struck up a friendship with Robert Capa, Edward Steichen and Roy Striker, he was an early invitee to Magnum Photos, of which he served as President in the late 1960s.
Based in New York since leaving the army in 1953, Erwitt quickly accrued a repetition as one of the defining photographers of his time. Working on commercial contracts, journalistic documentation and work destined for the gallery, he has proved himself a master of capturing single moments. Subjects of his portraits include the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, Muhammed Ali and Che Guevara. He has also developed a parallel career as a filmmaker.
For Erwitt, the importance of photography is in its ability to reflect the world. "Photography," he has said, "is an act of observation. It's about finding something interesting in an ordinary place."