- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Phaidon Press; First Thus edition (June 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 071484330X
- ISBN-13: 978-0714843308
- Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 2.2 x 10.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.4 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,728,469 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Elliot Erwitt Snaps Paperback – June 1, 2003
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'Haunting, absorbing, evocative and sometimes funny.'
'An essential career-spanning retrospective that reveals Erwitt's unassuming wit, brilliant framing and deep humanity.'
'Rare among photographers, Erwitt can make you laugh out loud (just turn to pages 86-87), but his scope is Tolstoyan. This 550-page retrospective will absorb you for years.'
About the Author
Elliott Erwitt is one of the most prestigious photographers in the world. A street photographer legend, he is best known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings - a master of Henri Cartier-Bresson's "decisive moment."
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The book's format is distinctly vertical, and yet maybe half of its images are horizontal. For the vertical images, this book is great. But for the horizontal images, this book is a disaster: they are shrunk to fit the page width, and because they then take up less than half the book's page height, they are either stacked one on top of the other, to great distraction, or they are presented alone, at the top of the page, with an ocean of blank paper sitting below them.
Another reviewer has noted the poor performance of the book's spine to accommodate those occasional "full-size" horizontal images that split across the gutter. This is the bane of photo books. Publishers, please stop. Publish images flat, one per page, un-crowded, un-distracted. Given that Erwitt seems to not favor horizontal nor vertical, a square page design is called for.
At the top of this review, I noted how nice it was to have so many of Erwitt's images in one book. Yes, but let me also note that there are, in this rare case, too many. There is a lot of redundancy of similar images, with the second- and third-best of various sets displayed with equal weight as the obvious superior image. It pains me to say that, because usually I am complaining about the stingy number of images we're allowed to see.
And the text? Forget about it. Just drivel. Why are photo books so poorly written?
Nevertheless, all said and complaints duly lodged, I truly love Erwitt's view of the world. And it isn't just that his pictures are funny. Like any good verbal comedian, his stuff works so well because his craft is so expertly honed. His compositions are very tight, his lines are very straight, his timing is impeccable. For the price of this book, in terms of value, it deserves more than three stars. (And Erwitt, himself, gets an automatic five.) But some balance needs to be given to offset the grade inflation that I think is going on with the other fans of Erwitt, tossing around stars.
Buy it, enjoy it, but don't confuse five-star photography with a five-star book.
An earlier reviewer pointed out that there are too many images in this book, and that is usually my gripe with most photo books too. However in this book it never feels boring. I doubt anyone would flip trough all 550 pages in one sitting and still get to study each photo closely. Instead, I consider it more of a catalog of Erwitts phenomenal eye for details and situations. Most of the pictures are situations where most of us would walk on by without even dreaming of there being anything photo-worthy.
I mean, a perched seagull looking at a plane is the cover photo!
Happens every day, but Erwitt captures it and points out to us all, and forces us to ask what the seagull is thinking when he sees a tin can full of humans flying by.
Said reviewer also points out that the prosaic texts are somewhat less than pulitzer-worthy. I agree wholeheartedly with that.
However the pictures in the book really need no captions. They ask questions, they don't tell!