In 1950 Elliott Erwitt, then just twenty-two years old, set out to capture Pittsburgh’s transformation from an industrial city into a modern metropolis. Commissioned by Roy Stryker, the mastermind behind the large-scale documentary photography projects launched by the US government during the Great Depression, Erwitt shot hundreds of frames. His images recorded the city’s communities against the backdrop of urban change, highlighting his quiet observations with the playful wit that has defined his style for over five decades. After only four months, Erwitt was drafted into the army and sent to Germany, leaving his negatives behind in Stryker’s Pittsburgh Photographic Library. The negatives remained at the Pennsylvania Department of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for decades. This exhibition, organized by Assistant Curator Claartje van Dijk in association with the photographer, will present these images in the United States for the first time.
This exhibition is right next to “The Decisive Moment” – so close in fact that I didn’t immediately realize that I was no longer seeing works by Cartier-Bresson. I’m something of a fan of Erwitt too (particularly for the humor he brings to his work), but seeing it right next to Cartier-Bresson I couldn’t help be feel it was a step down. I did try to bear in mind, however, that this is very early Erwitt (he was only 22 at the time where Cartier-Bresson was 44 when “The Decisive Moment” was published) and I’m such a fan of Cartier-Bresson that, to me, almost anything would suffer by comparison.
The exhibition runs until September 2, 2018.
For more on the story behind these pictures see the video below: “What Were You Thinking?” with Legendary Magnum Photographer Elliott Erwitt
Taken with a Sony RX-100 M3.