Elliott Erwitt (born 26 July 1928) is an American advertising and documentary photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings— a master of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment”.
Erwitt served as a photographer’s assistant in the 1950s in the United States Army while stationed in France and Germany. He was influenced by meeting the famous photographers Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker. Stryker, the former Director of the Farm Security Administration’s photography department, hired Erwitt to work on a photography project for the Standard Oil Company. He then began a freelance photographer career and produced work for Collier’s, Look, Life and Holiday. Erwitt was invited to become a member of Magnum Photos by the founder Robert Capa.
One of the subjects Erwitt has frequently photographed in his career is dogs: they have been the subject of five of his books, Son of Bitch (1974), To the Dogs (1992), Dog Dogs (1998), Woof (2005), and Elliott Erwitt’s Dogs (2008).
Erwitt has created an alter ego, the beret-wearing and pretentious “André S. Solidor” (which abbreviates to “ass”) — “a contemporary artist, from one of the French colonies in the Caribbean, I forget which one” — in order to “satirise the kooky excesses of contemporary photography.” His work was published in a book, The Art of André S. Solidor (2009), and exhibited in 2011 at the Paul Smith Gallery in London.
Erwitt was awarded the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and an honorary fellowship (HonFRPS) in 2002 in recognition of a sustained, significant contribution to the art of photography and the International Center for Photography’s Infinity Award, Lifetime Achievement category, in 2011.