The archive of photographer Elliott Erwitt (b. 1928), which includes more than 50,000 signed photographic prints, will be housed at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin.
Spanning more than six decades of Erwitt’s career, the archive covers not only his work for magazine, industrial and advertising clients but also photographs that have emerged from personal interests.
Collectors and philanthropists Caryl and Israel Englander have placed the archive at the Ransom Center for five years, making it accessible to researchers, scholars and students.
Born in Paris to Russian émigré parents, Erwitt spent his formative years in Milan and then immigrated to the United States, living in Los Angeles and ultimately New York. In 1948, Erwitt actively began his career and met photographers Robert Capa, Edward Steichen and Roy Stryker, all who would become mentors.
In 1953, Erwitt was invited to join Magnum Photos by Capa, one of the founders of the photographic co-operative. Ten years later, Erwitt became president of the agency for three terms. A member of the Magnum organization for more than 50 years, Erwitt’s archive will be held alongside the Magnum Photos collection at the Ransom Center.
While many of Erwitt’s photographs capture the famous, from Richard Nixon arguing with Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow in 1959 to Jacqueline Kennedy at her husband’s funeral, other subjects include everyday people, places and even dogs, a longtime love of Erwitt’s.
“The work I care about is terribly simple,” said Erwitt in “Personal Exposures” (1988). “I observe, I try to entertain, but above all I want pictures that are emotion. Little else interests me in photography. Today, so much is being done by unemotional people, or at least it looks that way I mean, work that’s fascinating and fun and clever and technically brilliant. But if it’s not personal, then it misses what interesting photography is about.”
Exhibitions of Erwitt’s work have been featured at institutions ranging from The Museum of Modern Art in New York to The Museum of Modern Art in Paris, and his work is represented in numerous major institutions.
“Whether capturing the everyday or the extraordinary, Erwitt’s work always has a wonderful element of accessibility,” said Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley. “Housing the collection here adds a new dimension to that access.”
In addition to providing access to the archive, the Ransom Center will promote interest in the collection through lectures, fellowships and exhibitions.
To date Erwitt is the author of more than 20 photography books including “Photographs and Anti-photographs” (1972), “Personal Exposures,” “Personal Best” (2006) and “Elliott Erwitt’s Paris” (2010).
The Ransom Center photography holdings range from collections of prints to individual archives of photographers such as David Douglas Duncan, Eliot Elisofon and Arnold Newman.
The Erwitt materials are currently being prepared for public access. High-resolution press images are available.