New York City (Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier)
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Gelatin silver print
Signed, in ink, au recto
Signed, titled and dated, in pencil, au verso
Printed in 2010
Image credit: © Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos
Born in Paris in 1928 to Russian parents, Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939. As a teenager living in Hollywood, he developed an interest in photography and worked in a commercial darkroom before experimenting with photography at Los Angeles City College. In 1948 he moved to New York and exchanged janitorial work for film classes at the New School for Social Research.
Erwitt traveled in France and Italy in 1949 with his trusty Rolleiflex camera. In 1951 he was drafted for military service and undertook various photographic duties while serving in a unit of the Army Signal Corps in Germany and France.
While in New York, Erwitt met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker, the former head of the Farm Security Administration. Stryker initially hired Erwitt to work for the Standard Oil Company, where he was building up a photographic library for the company, and subsequently commissioned him to undertake a project documenting the city of Pittsburgh.
In 1953 Erwitt joined Magnum Photos and worked as a freelance photographer for Collier’s, Look, Life, Holiday and other luminaries in that golden period for illustrated magazines. To this day he is for hire and continues to work for a variety of journalistic and commercial outfits. In the late 1960s Erwitt served as Magnum’s president for three years. He then turned to film: in the 1970s he produced several noted documentaries and, in the 1980s, eighteen comedy films for Home Box Office. Erwitt became known for benevolent irony, and for a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum.
– Biography source: Magnum Photos
Without a doubt, this is among the most famous sports photographs ever made. “The Fight of the Century” was the historic 1971 boxing match between then-undefeated Muhammad Ali against challenger Joe Frazier. Ali is shown faltering on the left side of the ring, seeming to presage the ultimate outcome of this legendary fight that ended his impressive winning streak. Signed by Erwitt, this print is a fine example of the consistency of this Magnum photographer’s output.
How Magnum Photos told the story of cinema (PDF) – BBC, September 2017
Elliott Erwitt’s Visual One Liners (PDF) – The New Yorker, October 2016
Elliott Erwitt on photographing Che, Marilyn and Barack (PDF) – The Telegraph, November 2015
Life behind the lens: Elliott Erwitt on photographing the likes of Marilyn Monroe and John F Kennedy (PDF) – Evening Standard., April 2015
Elliott Erwitt at the Museo di Roma (PDF) – London Financial Times, May 2009
ART/PHOTOGRAPGY; Life on a Banana Peel: Elliott Erwitt’s View of an Absurd Cosmos (PDF) – New York Times, December 2003
PHOTOGRAPHY REVIEW; Finding the Little Jokes That Pass Unnoticed(PDF) – New York Times, July 2000