Elliot Erwitt is a documentary and street photographer who is known for his ironic and playful black and white film shots. An immigrant from France in pre-WWII times, Erwitt started studying photography in the 1940’s in LA and New York. During his career, he had worked for the US Army, Standard Oil, and multiple other magazines, which allowed him to explore many different environments for his film. In his photographs, he seeks to capture everyday life…but with a unique, sarcastic, and playful twist. Many of his shots show the unexpected side of the common place, giving the audience a different viewpoint to something typically seen as mundane.
This photograph, “Fort Dix, 1951”, was taken while Erwitt was stationed in New Jersey. This photo in particular really jumped out at me because, of all the Erwitt photos I saw, this one seemed to defy my expectation the most. Post WWII, the world is feeling the utter burden of war and its atrocities. Especially with the rise of nationalism in the 40’s and 50’s, there is also no room to be focus your attention on anything BUT war. Yet, in this picture, we see a solider sticking his tongue out – giving a goofy look at the camera as if he doesn’t have a care in the world. He seems to be frolicking off to war. That sense of irony, and playful irony, is something that I find intriguing and valuable. I find it incredibly skillful to be able to capture this humor, wit, and unexpected emotion in a scene.
This photograph was one that spoke the feeling of serenity, peace, and simplicity to me. Growing up on the beach, the ocean is my second home. I love being around the water, listening to the waves crashing. The unique angle and crop of this photograph leads the viewer to think that this man is almost in the middle of the ocean, as if he is magically on a sandbar thousands of miles away from civilization. Yet, he doesn’t seem to be panicked, scared, or worried about the potentially rising tide. He is just enjoying it, something that I miss very much from my home. So this illusion of where this photograph is being taken combined with the sense of peace that I get from the ocean is why this is one of my Erwitt favorites.
This is one of Erwitt’s most famous photo’s, depicting two lovebirds in the back of a car by the ocean. First and foremost, from a technical standpoint, I love the use of the mirror reflecting back into the car, especially because it is in focus. What this mirror does for the audience is that it gives us a sixth sense: it allows us to have a 3D spatial awareness for our scene – we can tell what is going on (and what feelings and emotions are expressed), even though we are not directly looking at it. This spatial awareness allows us to feel more present in the scene, yet it is almost as if we are secreting peeping into the lovers’ private moment through this small mirror.
This last photo captured the “decisive moment” property perfectly. When I first saw this photograph, I immediately thought the crack in the window was cause by a bullet. After further inspection, I realize it was probably just a rock or something small, but immediately I gave me the sense of a bullet. Then, with this “bullet hole” over the child’s eye, the juxtaposition of the child and the violence of guns seemed overwhelming. It just seemed very ironic to me to have a child “looking” through the ‘lens of the bullet’ per say. And an additionally crazy part was that the child seems unphased by it, as if it is normal.