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Elliott Erwitt looks for fun in photo sequences

By dpreview staff on Mar 8, 2012 at 20:36 GMT

The BBC has an interesting short interview with Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt, in which he talks about looking for sequences of shots, rather than one-off photos. The video coincides with the launch of his book 'Sequentially Yours' and looks at how a series of photos can sometimes tell more of a story than a single shot in isolation.

Often associated with the Cartier-Bresson's 'decisive moment' idea of photography, here he shows how that there's  fun to be had playing beyond the single moment.


Total comments: 34
Carl Sanders
By Carl Sanders (Mar 12, 2012)

We did these back in the 70's and agree it can tell a story!

By MartinaB (Mar 11, 2012)

I also really enjoyed his images and interview. It appears most of his work is 35mm black and white film. He uses pro gear (great glass) but likely his images are not as sharp as can be produced by by modern digital cameras.

But you know what... It doesn't matter. They are still great photographs by any standard. All wonderful images, if only they were hanging on my wall!

DPR is mostly a technical web site. Many viewers love cameras for what they are .. beautiful technology. Here is a man who is good at his trade and used his tools intuitively.

What I learn from this interview is I should get out and take more photos, understand composition, light etc. And stop conning my self that the next model camera will make me a better photographer.

By JustFred (Mar 10, 2012)

Well here's one of two girlfriends of mine were the pose went a little awry. :)

By joe6pack (Mar 9, 2012)

What I am most interested to know is how he managed to follow the entire family with a broken umbrella all the way home. They are interesting photos but if I am the person being photographed I would tell the photographer to f**k off.

Klaus dk
By Klaus dk (Mar 9, 2012)

Perhaps that is what makes Elliott Erwitt unique: he does not inspire that kind of behaviour.
-just sayin'-

1 upvote
aperture 56
By aperture 56 (Mar 10, 2012)

exactly, those subtle differences in our look, personality, body language, shooting style etc. make a huge difference... from my observations far not everyone has a potential to become a great photographer, even if one wants a lot... the same like not everyone will ever be able to lift 1000 pounds from the ground no matter how hard he trains..

By BobYIL (Mar 9, 2012)

I find Elliot Erwitt very unique for being funny, satirical, humorous as person as well as in expressing of what he sees; recalling Lartigue or Doisneau of some sort. He creates a caricature out of the usual and ordinary however by also knowing where to get utterly serious; an admirable talent, a very bright personality.

(A sad fact is that the ones who made Magnum the Magnum are disappearing slowly..)

Jack Simpson
By Jack Simpson (Mar 9, 2012)

as expected .... most enjoyable :)

By pastie (Mar 9, 2012)

I love Elliot Erwits images because he's obviously enjoying himself and his sense of enjoyment, humour and love of people and photography comes through in his pictures.

They are simple, humorous and he obviously knows how to get the most from his gear or lots of those shots would be missed.

I found some of his pictures recently in a magnum photographers book and for me he is simply refreshing, the humour jumped out from the book and for me he was one of the stand out photographers in the book.

I personally had never thought of doing a sequence of images and always tend to try and summarise everything in one shot, at least this book shows that there is another way.

Now, that we've become so gear focused he reminds me that in the end its about whats in the picture, and I should spend less time staring at 100% crops and lens reviews and more time with my camera in my hand.

1 upvote
By looker (Mar 9, 2012)

You know what would be great? Take a bunch of pictures and play them back in sequence quickly. so you can see the motion. And maybe even record sound while you're shooting. wait... oh...

What seriously drives me crazy is when a sports photographer shows pictures in a sequence and also tries has explain what was happening at that time.

The best pictures stand on their own based on what we see in the frame.

1 upvote
By AlexBakerPhotoz (Mar 9, 2012)

One of the greatest photographers of all time. AND, without doubt, the funniest.

By dgoakill (Mar 9, 2012)

(full disclosure I'm a huge Erwitt fan), but I can't figure out why people love to downplay his work so much? He always gives a great interview because he's genuine, he's not in it for the fame, he'd still be doing it happily, even if no one knew who he was. Plus as was mentioned, he's so honest with his words and so direct that you can get more useful info from listening to him for 3 minutes then you can reading a 300 page photography instruction book. He tells you what can't be taught.

By putomax (Mar 9, 2012)

I haven't watch the video, but a month ago or so I went through Elliott Erwitt's book Sequentially Yours.
there were truly MAGNIFICENT stories told with few images. With special cariño I remember this guy at the beach sitting in a deck chair with a beer bottle on a table next to him and a blonde at his feet... the film my mind "completed" was very interesting. I got mesmerized by how Erwitt's made insignificant details, "touchstones"… that sequence wouldn't have been the same without the beer bottle. There's another with an old man, a hat and very wrinkled hands... There's one with as much glamour as Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable in a very relaxed/playful mood shoot, probably at location for The Misfits film.
Film and Video are not Photography.
Each one has its own gravity fields,
language, codes, specifities, time...
each one demand of us and nurtures us with different "STUFF".
Saludos to everybody


1 upvote
By JulesJ (Mar 9, 2012)

Great guy and great work, I have one of his signed originals.

Brian Mosley
By Brian Mosley (Mar 9, 2012)

He has such a charming sense of fun, and conveys a lot about his style in this short piece. Thanks for posting this.

By steveh0607 (Mar 9, 2012)

Funny stuff! A good eye is all it takes.

By JacquesBalthazar (Mar 9, 2012)

Thanks DPR for flagging this. In fact Elliott's point of view here is very challenging, at many levels, and runs against the core DPR community belief that digital hardware innovation really matters. I just dragged my old M6 out of the cupboard. Will be my buddy for the week-end!

jerry  eisner
By jerry eisner (Mar 9, 2012)

No matter what you think of his work (and i really appreciate it ), he actually gives you an amazing amount of his secrets in under 3 minutes. What he says in three minutes sums up the essence of a brilliant photography career that spanned 30 years. If i show this to my students they will be exposed to the very essence of what makes a great photo. You have to listen to him very carefully because there is NO HYPE in his words. Jerry E (photo teacher)

Steve Balcombe
By Steve Balcombe (Mar 9, 2012)

Lovely, really made me smile. But I don't really see anything unique about them - they are simply cartoon strips recorded on film instead of by the talent of an illustrator. What's more they are 'objets trouvés'. Some people have a talent for spotting these things of course, but it's like finding an attractively shaped piece of driftwood - how much credit can you take for choosing it?

It's the kind of book I like to buy - but for its humour, not its photography.

By TacticDesigns (Mar 9, 2012)

HaHaHa -- :)
But then again, just ask Marcel Duchamp.

By DaveBowman (Mar 9, 2012)

Lucky enough to have a signed copy of this book. A wonderful photographer!

By willhall (Mar 9, 2012)

If you take 30 shots every second, and combine them into a sort of audio slideshow you can tell even more of a story /troll

By ymatthon (Mar 9, 2012)

"a series of photos can sometimes tell more of a story than a single shot"
No, Really?

Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Mar 8, 2012)

Now THAT's Photography - pure creativity, completely removed fro hi-tec gadgetry, newest revolutionary models, and other things which serve more to sell cameras than use them. It proves that 99% of photo quality is the author, and that the picture-taaking tool is just that: a tool. And tools aren't creative.

By h2k (Mar 8, 2012)

He has heart, he has soul. Rare in today's "superficial" photography.

By ryansholl (Mar 8, 2012)

I don't believe it. A sequence could tell more of a story than a single shot?

Just wait til he discovers there's something called "video" now!

By Dennis (Mar 8, 2012)

That misses the point entirely. The sequence of the couple in the chairs followed by the empty chairs is funny because it suggests something absurd. Obviously it didn't happen. You can't do that in video.

By doctorbza (Mar 8, 2012)

Perhaps ryansholl should see if Magnum is interested in his thoughts on the medium.

By pdcm (Mar 9, 2012)

I don't know why you are rejecting this idea. It isn't new. Photographers have been using sequenced images for years. Think in terms of 'Slices of Life'. Freelance photographer, Lious Peek, did a very good sequence of a girl and boy together shot in Paris I think, back in the late 1960s. The effect is different to a movie; the story is told differently. And with the still sequence the deliberate gaps can be used to create tension,and work on ones own imagination to fill in the gaps.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
By duartix (Mar 9, 2012)

In photography, as in most other art forms, the more that is thrown at you, the least there is left for your imagination to work on. That magic shouldn't be lost.

What is happening most of the times anyone is looking at a TV screen these days, is their brain being shut down. And note that I wrote "most of the times". I believe that's why your "video" comment hasn't been well received.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
By CFynn (Mar 9, 2012)

He is playing with his viewers imagination. Video often fills all the gaps and leaves nothing to the viewers imagination.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
Tom Caldwell
By Tom Caldwell (Mar 8, 2012)

Good old Elliott with a quirky sense of humour and a very keen eye, the photographic medium has been surely blessed by his work.

Another fan

By sk000ks (Mar 8, 2012)

Ars longa

By RudivanS (Mar 8, 2012)

Big fan of Elliot's work!

1 upvote
Total comments: 34