Elliott Erwitt | Dogs and Contact Sheets

In the first of (probably) a year-long series on contact sheets, Iconic Photos look behind one of the most beloved animal pictures:  

Although he is also known for many other famous street-photography photos, Elliott Erwitt dedicated the bulk of his photographic work to dogs. He loves them: dogs on the street, dog portraits, dogs larger than children, dog piles and most famously, jumping dogs. Of his 21 books, four are devoted to his dog photography — books such as To the Dogs and Son of Beach where he compared bulldogs and poodles with their jowly or primped-up owners.

P.G. Wodehouse wrote of Erwitt and his dog subjects: “There’s not a sitter in his gallery who does not melt the heart and no beastly class distinctions, either. Thoroughbreds and mutts, they are all there”.

I have always imagined Erwitt to be running up and down the city streets taking fast snapshots of dogs, so it was a surprise to see this contactsheet behind one of his most famous photos:

As Erwitt himself said:

Contact sheets should be as private as a toothbrush and ought to be guarded as jealously as a mistress. They shoud never be published; they should be seen only by one’s closest, benevolent associate when the photographer is stuck in a decision about wich specific picture to use and cannot resolve it himself.

A dozen contact sheets tell far more about a photographer than a dozen ‘good’ pictures taken by that same photographer. Two dozen contact sheets taken at random from various stories and carefully scrutinized would be equal to a complete (photographic) psychoanalysis of the photographer.

Contact sheets reveal how one thinks and how one sees. They remove the mistery of how one gets to a finished picture. They are bad for our carefully cultivated mystique.”


10 thoughts on “Elliott Erwitt | Dogs and Contact Sheets

  1. I love and adore Elliott Erwitt’s photography – I have lots of his prints and books of his photo’s.
    This happens to be one of my favourites – I have this framed in my office

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