As an editorial and commercial photographer and a member of the prestigious Magnum Photos, Elliott Erwitt worked regularly with both color and black-and-white film. To most admirers, however, he is probably best known for his black-and-white images. From frames of dogs to pictures of everyday life on the street, Erwitt’s wry wit defines his work in black-and-white film.
But Erwitt’s newest book, Kolor, named as a small tribute to George Eastman, founder of Eastman Kodak Co., provides a broader scope to showcase Erwitt’s signature style. Using images taken from Erwitt’s personal and advertising archive of Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides, “Kolor” presents a sly and subtle collection of images.
The layout of the images allows the viewer to move smoothly across a variety of subjects and locations – from shots of Marilyn Monroe on the set of “The Misfits” to wedding celebrations in Siberia. The large format of the book works well with Erwitt’s often larger-than-life scenes, like the eclectic and whimsical group portrait set as an advertisement for French tourism and the unexpected head of a lion positioned at the wheel of a car in California.
“Kolor” provides a fresh view on the lifework of a much beloved photographer. This is accomplished not just through the introduction of color, but also in the subtlety of Erwitt’s style as seen in the images. As Erwitt himself explains in the book: “Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.”
Ann Hermes is a Monitor staff photographer.