“It’s about reacting to what you see, hopefully without any preconceived ideas. You can find images anywhere; it’s just a question of noticing things and organizing them. You just need to look at what’s around you: the humanity and the drama of life.”
This was the driving philosophy behind the memorable images that made up photographer Elliott Erwitt’s long career. Unforgettable images such as a couple reflected in a rear-view mirror by the sea, a French boy on a bicycle hidden by two long baguettes, funny little puppies being walked by their stylish owners.
The Magnum photographer is best remembered for his celebrity portraits, like the ones of Marilyn Monroe and Che Guevara. These images are part of American and European history, spanning from the ’40s to the present day. These images portrayed everyday life in a subtle and ironic way, revealing the absurd in the mundane. The world of that great American photographer, born in Paris in 1928, was not just black-and-white.
Erwitt maintained that “with color you describe, with black and white you interpret.” He lived a double life: in his free time, he used black-and-white for his personal photos, but for his published works he used Kodachrome and Ektachrome color film. He did not necessarily prefer one over the other; what mattered for Erwitt was the photographs that emerged as the end result. It was from the immense archives of his slides and negatives (around half a million in total) that “Kolor” was born: an exhibition comprising 45 of his works, including set photos, portraits and street photography.
The unedited treasure trove will be on display for the first time at the gallery In Focus in Cologne until March 26th. This immense archive, hidden from the public, has never before seen the light of day, though the negatives were developed sixty years ago. Erwitt’s irony is unmistakable in each one of his works, even in color: a unique touch visible in portraits of world leaders and movie stars, of markets and battlefields, of cities and countrysides, of splendor and of simplicity.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost Italy and was translated into English.