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Elliott Erwitt:

An Inventory of His Photography Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Erwitt, Elliott, 1928-
Title: Elliott Erwitt Photgraphy Collection
Dates: 1946-2010
Extent: 870 boxes
Abstract: The collection consists of more than 31,500 signed modern prints of 2,723 images, roughly 2,600 vintage and book production prints of 1,577 images, and some 14,500 5x7-inch proof prints taken by photographer Elliott Erwitt (American, born 1928 in Italy) between 1946 and 2010.
Call Number: Photography Collection PH-02460
Language: English
Access: Due to the size of of the collection, a viewing set of prints, consisting of at least one copy of each of the 4,037 images, was set aside for public access. The viewing set is open for research. Please use the database to request materials that you wish to view in person in the Reading and Viewing Room. Prints that were spot toned for the Ransom Center’s exhibition Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World (August 15, 2016–January 1, 2017) have been restricted from public access, but other copies of those images are available.



Acquisition: Gift of Caryl and Israel Englander, 2016 (15-12-029-G)
Processed by: Savannah Gignac, 2013; Kait Dorsky, 2017
Repository:

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center


Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian émigré parents, Elliott Erwitt and his family immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in in Los Angeles, where Erwitt attended high school and bought his first camera. Not long after, Erwitt moved to New York, which would serve as his home base and a photographic focal point throughout his career. Connections with major figures in the photographic world, such as Edward Steichen and Roy Stryker, provided him with both guidance and some of his earliest professional assignments. The latter included taking portraits of authors for Alfred A. Knopf, Incorporated, publications and illustrating stories for Ladies’ Home Journal.
During service in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s, Erwitt visited the office of Magnum Photos Incorporated in Paris and met Robert Capa, who invited Erwitt to join the organization in 1953. Ten years later, Erwitt became president of the agency for three terms, and he has remained a member of the Magnum organization for more than 50 years. At the end of his military service in 1953, Erwitt returned with his young family to New York City, where he received larger and more frequent assignments from major publications like Life, Holiday, and Look, which form a significant portion of his work. While these jobs took him across the country and the world, he continued to photograph subjects and themes of personal interest during and between assignments. Street scenes, children, and dogs appear frequently, as do images which depict the humor and commonality of everyday life.
Erwitt’s career has included a number of solo exhibitions and associated books, including Improbable Photographs (1965), Son of a Bitch (1974), and Personal Exposures (1989). He returned to his lifelong interest in filmmaking in the 1970s and 1980s, with films including Beauty Knows No Pain (1971), The Glassmakers of Herat (1977), and Good Nudes! (1983). Erwitt, who served three terms as president of Magnum Photos, remains a member to this day.

McDonald, Jessica S. "Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World." In Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World, 11-47. New York: Aperture, 2016.
"Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World." Harry Ransom Center. Accessed June 24, 2017. http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/2016/erwitt/.

The collection consists of more than 31,500 signed modern prints of 2,723 images, and roughly 2,600 vintage and book production prints of 1,577 images taken by photographer Elliott Erwitt (American, born 1928 in Italy) between 1946 and 2010. Also included are some 14,500 5x7-inch proof prints. Found within the collection are examples of Erwitt’s work for magazine and advertising clients, much of it done while a member of the prestigious photographic cooperative Magnum Photos Incorporated, as well as photographs inspired by his personal interests and travel. While many of the photographs capture famous events and people -- from the historic Khrushchev-Nixon "Kitchen Debates" to American film star Marilyn Monroe -- Erwitt’s other works reveal everyday people and places, and the photographer’s love of dogs. Given the size and scope of the collection, an viewing set consisting of one copy of each of the 4,033 images (and multiples of some Vintage prints) was set aside and a database was created to grant access to the collection. The database can be found at http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/erwittdc/.
The database records Erwitt's captions, which consist only of a place name, country, and date. Item-level descriptions for each image have been added to the database, allowing searching by keyword and browsing by country and/or decade.
Please use the database to request materials that you wish to view in person in the Reading and Viewing Room.
The remainder of the collection, which includes contact sheets and negatives, remains with the photographer until his death and are unavailable.
Prints that were spotted for the Ransom Center’s exhibition Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World (August 15, 2016–January 1, 2017) have been restricted from public access, but other copies of those images are available. Spotting is a means of correcting minor flaws in a photograph by retouching the print using a special ink.
The collection is divided into three series, reflecting the original arrangement of the prints as they arrived at the Ransom Center: I. Non-vintage prints, 1944-2010; II. Vintage prints, 1948-2009; and III. Proof Prints, 1950-2010. To facilitate retrieval, each series has been divided by decade which is reflected in the subseries titles. Within each subseries, prints are arranged first by year and then by Erwitt’s and/or Magnum’s unique negative numbering system.
The first series consists of more than 31,500 signed modern prints. These prints were stock from Erwitt's commercial studio and were meant to be sold. Aside from those used in the Ransom Center’s exhibition Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World, they are unspotted, as Erwitt's studio only performed this task immediately prior to a print's sale.
The second series consists of approximately 2,600 vintage prints. They are a mix of prints sent out for distribution by Magnum Photos Inc.; prints Erwitt used when creating books; and prints created when, or shortly after, the images were made. Many of the vintage prints lack any identifying information.
The third series consists of approximately 14,500 5x7 proof prints, including both fiber and RC prints.

The Photography Collection holds two photographs by Erwitt that were acquired separately. Print information for those items follows.
964:3431:0001 -- Family Scene, 1953. Gelatin silver print, 16 x 24.9 cm (image and sheet). Gernsheim Collection;
2016:0003:0001 -- Train Window, 1947. Gelatin silver print, 12.3 x 8.4 cm (image); 12.5 x 17.7 cm (sheet). Purchase with funds provided by the David Douglas Duncan Endowment for Photojournalism.
Additional photographs by Erwitt can be found in the Ransom Center's Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Literary File Photography Collection, as well as two portfolios by Erwitt, Elliott Erwitt (f TR 654 E784 HRC-P, 982:0061:0001-0015), and Photographs: Elliott Erwitt (f TR 654 E785 HRC-P, 982:0061:0001-0015).

People

Erwitt, Elliott, 1928- .
Guevara, Che, 1928-1967.
Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier, 1929-1994.
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971.
Monroe, Marilyn, 1926-1962.
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994.

Subjects

Authors--Pictorial works.
Architecture--Pictorial works.
Artists--Pictorial works.
Beaches--Pictorial works.
Children--Pictorial works.
Couples--Pictorial works.
Documentary photography.
Dogs--Pictorial works.
Family--Pictorial works.
Galleries & museums.
Magnum Photos.
Nudists.
Nudity.
Religious services.
Sculpture--Pictorial works.
United States. Army--Pictorial works.
Wit and humor in art.

Places

Brazil--Pictorial works.
Czechoslovakia--Pictorial works.
Egypt--Pictorial works.
England--Pictorial works.
Fort Monmouth (N.J.)--Pictorial works.
France--Pictorial works.
Germany--Pictorial works.
Hungary--Pictorial works.
Italy--Pictorial works.
New York (N.Y.)--Pictorial works.
New York (State)--Pictorial works.
Poland--Pictorial works.
Russia--Pictorial works.

Document Types

Gelatin silver prints.
Genre (visual works).
Portrait photographs.
Streetscapes.