Serious Photography

People tend to put professional photography into a very serious box.  It’s used to show the worst of humanity and nature, a very serious thing.  It is also used to show the highlights of both, which ironically is usually just as serious.  It is true that in recent years, with the advent of the cell phone camera and the internet, everyday snapshots of very funny events and juxtapositions have proliferated.  But in professional photography, seriousness still is given the top shelf on which to reside. It’s not that different than in cinema. Funny movies and comedic actors just don’t get the same level of respect and reward as do those that are serious.

But, in spite of that, we still have great comedic movies and actors.  We also have some very funny photographers.  Foremost among them in my mind is Elliot Erwitt.  He is one of my all time favorite photographers.  He spent 50+ years as one of the preeminent photographers photographing the world.  He was a founding member of Magnum, the elite photography agency started by Robert Capa mid-twentieth century.  He eventually became its president.  He took some of the most iconic and important political and social photographs of that century.  He was a VERY serious photographer. At the same time he was the least serious photographer you will ever find.

The perspective of Erwitt is not to be purposely funny. It’s to record a world that has interesting juxtapositions that can sometimes be very funny.  They can also be poignant and stark in their irony and pathos as they reveal the human condition.


Dogs and other animals

No one has ever been better at capturing the humanity of the Dog and other animals.


New York City, 2000 © Elliot Erwitt

New York City, 2000 © Elliot Erwitt



© Elliot Erwitt


Birmingham, England © Elliot Erwitt

Birmingham, England © Elliot Erwitt




Florida Keys, 1968 © Elliot Erwitt


brasilia, 1961

Brasilia, 1961 © Elliot Erwitt

Nudes or Close

I have been drawing and photographing the nude figure since I was 17 years old in High School.  As I matured, one of my goals in doing the nude has been to juxtapose the inherent sensuality of the nude with something that offsets it. It can be humor, a unique visual perspective or something disturbing. I want there to be an element that draws people away from the sensuality just enough to make them stop and think about it.  I was inspired in that direction in no small part due to Erwitt and other photographers ability to do that so successfully. 


Nude Students, Clothed Model, East Hampton, New York, 1983 © Elliot Erwitt



Nude Judging Contest, Bakersfield, California, 1983, © Elliot Erwitt



Managua, Nicaragua, 1957 © Elliot Erwitt



Priest and Sculpture

Priest and Sculpture © Elliot Erwitt


Nudists, Kent, England, 1968 © Elliot Erwitt

Nudists, Kent, England, 1968 © Elliot Erwitt



Elliott Erwitt82820

Naked Woman and Cat, 1952, © Elliot Erwitt


1977 © Elliot Erwitt

1977 © Elliot Erwitt


1977 © Elliot Erwitt




Sometimes Erwitt is just able to capture the perfect moment of absurdity, contradiction or surprise that makes you smile and laugh.


© Elliot Erwitt



Versaille, France, 1975 © Elliot Erwitt



© Elliot Erwitt


pasadena california-1963

Pasadena, California, 1963 © Elliot Erwitt


Family Portrait, 1962, © Elliot Erwitt

Family Portrait, 1962, © Elliot Erwitt


I have focused only on what I think are his humorous pieces. He took photos of some of the worlds most important leaders and entertainers as well as some of the iconic national moments in America.  If you like what you see here, do an information or image search of Elliot Erwitt.  There are fantastic collections of his work out there as well as revealing articles and histories of his place in 20th century photography. He’s well worth exploring further.




If you want to see more of my ‘Photographic Sunday’ series, you can see it here.


You can see others in my ‘Artists I Love’ series here:

Fall/Winter 2016

Winter/Spring 2015

Summer/Fall 2014

Winter 2012/2013

Winter 2011/2012

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