Elliott Erwitt

“I’m a professional photographer with a serious hobby.. photography.” Elliott Erwitt

It’s fair to say that Elliott Erwitt is a living legend.  He’s been photographing for over half a century (!) and to many, his images are the epitome of street photography.  If you’re not familiar with his work, simply Google him and you’ll surely recognise some of his iconic images.

He was in London last week for a Q&A session and I was lucky enough to be able to attend.

Not only is he incredibly talented and still working today although he’s in his 80s, he is also hilarious and highly entertaining.  He had the audience in stitches on numerous occasions.

He started off by telling the interviewer that ‘photos should be looked at, not talked about’ to which the interviewer replied “well you have to give these people their money’s worth!”.  He spoke about his disproval of photoshop and how people simply do not use much skill, and when asked about his thoughts on lomography, asked what lomography is – a term he was genuinely unfamiliar with.  He is a film purist, and hires an assistant to help him out when he has to use a digital camera for his professional work.

He’s of course well-known for his images of dogs, and said he likes to photograph French dogs as ‘they are intellectual”.  When prompted by an audience member, he even barked like a dog to demonstrate how he gets the dogs’ attentions.  I didn’t expect him to do that!

I asked him what inspires him when shooting, and he said ‘nothing’.  He simply sees something, composes and shoots, with little thought process going into it.  I also asked about how street photography has changed since the 50s, and whether it’s harder now due to the paranoia of society being photographed.  He said in many ways it’s easier now as everyone has a camera so it’s not as unusual.  He also said in terms of being inconspicuous, for his museum shots where photography is often forbidden, if he was with someone he would get them to cough as he clicked the shutter, so the sound would be disguised. Clever tactic.

Someone asked him if he would have been accepted by Magnum if he had applied today, to which he replied “Good question.. probably not”.

He also said in order to be successful (money-wise) in photography, “take pictures of famous people”.  Sad, but true.  He is of course renowned for some of the images he took of Marilyn Monroe amongst other celebrities.  His “personal” work relates to his street photography.

Elliott Erwitt is a no-nonsense photographer – he tells it how it is and I have to say his personality and character was quite endearing despite his abrupt honesty!

For some bizarre reason the organisers were telling those who were taking pictures, not to.  The irony..

However, I managed to take this image on my digital SLR (yes – more irony) – my ISO 400 film wouldn’t have stood a chance ; )

At the end he stayed around and was mobbed by people wanting their books signed.

Nikon F3 – Kodak 400, 50mm f1.8

One to full-view:

This is the closest I got to capturing a smile from him! Too bad the focus was off:

I told him I would be honoured if he would take a book of mine (more on that later..) away with him and look at it whenever he wishes. He had a flick through, took it and thanked me, after which I thought I was going to faint :D I’d like to think he genuinely did take a closer look later, but let’s face it, how would a photographer as amazing as him even perceive my images?! I’d love to know.

This really was a brilliant insight into the mind of an all-time great.


Some other images off the same roll:

After taking the next two shots, a man nearby told me he’ll charge me for taking the photos and I should be asking permission, even though the subjects themselves did not complain.  I tried to explain the concept of street photography to him to no avail.  He really didn’t get it.

We are definitely a narcissistic society.

Myself included:

As you can tell, self-portraits aren’t my forte.  The below was a shot of myself in the CCTV screen on a bus.  The screen was changing every minute or so to show different views on the bus, and I was waiting for it to show another view where I would been right in front of the screen, but my stop arrived before that happened, so all I got was this.  Epic fail:

It’s the Chinese Year of the Rabbit.

Chinatown in London

Literally everyone has a camera today, and the amount of people on the streets with SLRs has increased hugely over the past 5 years. We basically live in a society wanting to capture every moment, yet more paranoid than ever of being captured. Funny.

A random assortment of images from here, there and everywhere.  I just don’t have the time to upload in any kind of structured way these days.

Some shots from a few months ago now.

Nikon F3 – Kodak 200, 50mm f1.8

Somewhere off Brick Lane:

Some kids who were standing in the top left-hand side of this image below were shouting at me when I took this, thinking I was taking a picture of them:

If only they knew a 50mm could not possibly capture their faces from this distance.  Paranoid society extends across all generations.

Also on this roll were a few images from India in November.

I spent a lot more time in Costa in Mumbai than I should have done, and I’m ashamed of eating a chocolate muffin and drinking a mocha in such a cultural country but a) having travelled around India immersing myself in local festivities I think I’m allowed one chocolate muffin, and b) Costa is a great meeting point!  I’d forgotten about how quickly I got through the Twilight books:

(The films are pants compared to the books.  Don’t watch the films.)

A simple, traditional, delicious Indian lunch:

I took this image moments before a near-death experience where the rickshaw I was in was half a cm away from being trampled by a truck.  No exaggeration:

Funnily enough, the first thing I thought of when it dawned upon me was that a 50mm lens is  too narrow to capture the truck.  It took me around an hour to recover from the shock of almost dying.  The rickshaw driver on the other hand drove on as though nothing had happened.  It just occurred to me that the last image I would have taken would have been of myself.  Lovely!

Juhu Beach:

A more recent roll from this month

Kodak 400 – Nikon F3, 50mm f1.8

Sand sculptor on Southbank:

Probably my favourite gallery in London – Saatchi Gallery:

I took this before realising the next day that it’s a new Banksy piece:

I work in a completely unrelated field to photography, in the heart of corporate London – Canary Wharf.

I don’t know how ducks ended up in this man-made park:

It’s fair to say I have quite possibly the best view this city has to offer, at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the UK.

You can see the Shard building above on the left, which is soon to be the tallest building in the country when complete.

This looks over to the east of London.  You can see the Olympic Stadium above.

One of the meeting rooms facing the capital:

It’s hard not to stare out of the window when it’s a clear day.  On a cloudy day all you can see is whiteness, as we’re literally in the clouds, and often you can see clouds whirl past below.  Pretty amazing really.

My boss immersed in work, while I finish off my roll of film:

I should really capture more of Canary Wharf.  Sometimes it seems it’s full of zombies on crack. Interesting subjects.

Chor Bazaar

Happy New Year!

I’ve been meaning to post a whole lot of images lately. I’ve finally got round to editing some stuff from November.  This post is on one of India’s most prominent markets, shot mostly on film.

Chor Bazaar (Thieves Market) – Mumbai, India – November 2010

The Chor Bazaar is one of India’s largest flea markets. ‘Chor’ literally means ‘thief’, and the area is littered with all kinds of completely random items – from antique artifacts to walkmans (walkmen?) to car parts to mobile phones.. you name it, the Chor Bazaar has it. The streets are dusty, crowded, chaotic and noisy – and full of junk. It’s not really the kind of place I can imagine most people would want to spend much time in, unless of course you, like me, are fascinated by all things out of the ordinary.

Nikon F3 – 50mm f1.8 – Kodak 400

On the way:

Children on bikes (without helmets of course) – a sight you soon get used to around these parts:

It’s the small things in a place like this that make it what it is, like the ‘Mercedes’ sign on a filthy shutter, in front of which is a boy playing with a goat.  Perhaps I’m overanalysing the moment, but to me, the irony in a symbol of wealth, alongside dirt and the simplicity of animals and children jumps straight out.

He gestured for me to take his picture:

I have never seen so many walkmans in one place:

What use would the brown, knotted casette reels even have to anyone?  I can honestly only think of artists who would want to use that as part of some creative project, yet this being India, I’m convinced there’s some practical use for it – there always is.

Switching to Kodak 200:

This looks like a scene out of the 70s:

Thinking about it, the streets really were reminiscent of another era.

Haven’t done one of these in a while:

(Note to self – do not wear sleeveless tops in mosquito-ridden areas.)

Digital images:

Notice the difference in colours between film and digital?

Wherever you go in India, tea is obligatory – a necessity in fact.

The shot above reminds me of this image I took in London’s Brick Lane – the closest comparison to this market I can make in terms of the random items – from this blog.

This boy was looking after the entire shop while his dad was busy elsewhere.  He knew the price of every single item.

I loved this shop – it was full of old Bollywood posters and items like this slide:

It only just occurred to me that I’ve taken similar images in Brick Lane..again. from here and from here.  I could start a series of these!

This shop was selling a Hasselblad for £100 (that’s without bargaining so knock at least £50 off that):

This place has its own vibe and unique character, and the clutter is endless.. It can make you feel quite claustrophobic but is fascinating nevertheless. Something to definitely check out if you’re ever in that part of the world.

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