Elliott Erwitt Photography Collection donated to Ransom Center
By Harry Ransom Center
The Ransom Center has acquired the archive of renowned photographer Elliott Erwitt (American, b. France 1928). Caryl and Israel Englander generously donated the collection.
“Whether capturing fleeting moments of great historical importance or the ordinary events of everyday life, Erwitt continues to show us in one remarkable print after another a perspective that had eluded our sight before,” said Stephen Enniss, director of the Ransom Center.
The expansive collection, which will be housed at the Ransom Center, provides an unprecedented opportunity to study Erwitt’s life and work as a photographer.
Erwitt has worked as a photographer for 70 years and is a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos agency. His photographs have been exhibited internationally and have been published in hundreds of books, magazines and newspapers. Known for his extraordinary versatility, he is an accomplished portraitist, photojournalist, advertising photographer and observer of everyday life.
“The collection offers wonderful surprises for researchers, even those who know Erwitt’s work well,” said Jessica S. McDonald, the Ransom Center’s Nancy Inman and Marlene Nathan Meyerson Curator of Photography. “The longevity of Erwitt’s career also provides a very interesting window into major changes in the field, as photographs transitioned from reproductions on magazine pages to prints on museum walls.”
Two hundred of these prints are now on view in the Ransom Center Galleries in the inaugural exhibition drawn from the collection, “Elliott Erwitt: Home Around the World.” A richly illustrated exhibition catalog, edited by McDonald, has been co-published with Aperture.
Erwitt’s poignant family photographs became symbolic icons when they were featured in the 1955 exhibition “The Family of Man.” His famous photographs of the 1959 “Kitchen Debate” between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow and his celebrated 1960 portraits of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on the set of their final film “The Misfits” (1961) are all present in the newly acquired collection.
The Elliott Erwitt Photography Collection comprises an estimated 47,500 black-and-white photographs, ranging from 1946 to 2010. The collection includes Erwitt’s black-and-white negatives, including 35 mm and medium format, and his contact sheets spanning the same period.
The collection includes more than 33,000 modern exhibition prints ranging in size from 11-by-14 inches to 30-by-40 inches and nearly 12,000 5-by-7-inch proof prints. The collection also contains more than 2,500 vintage prints including press prints and prints prepared in conjunction with book projects such as “Eastern Europe: Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland” (1965), “Observations on American Architecture” (1972), “Son of Bitch” (1974) and “Recent Developments” (1978).
Containing early photographs that will be unfamiliar to many, the collection offers new insight into the establishment of Erwitt’s career, including his tremendously productive work for the illustrated press in the 1950s and 1960s. It also traces the development of recurrent themes that connect the work Erwitt has made over more than half a century. Students and researchers will be able to trace Erwitt’s persistent attraction to streets, beaches, museums and other public places where people — and dogs — go about their everyday lives in nearly every part of the world.
Additional works will be open for research in the Ransom Center’s Reading and Viewing Room once the collection has been processed.