Friday, 15 February 2013

Elliott Erwitt exhibition opens in Warsaw

An exhibition to see. Photographer Elliott Erwitt (85 years old, working with the legendary Magnum Photos agency since 1954) has personally selected 50 of his favourite images for display at Warsaw's Leica Gallery (ul. Mysia 3). Among the photos some of his trademark dog photos, some famous faces (Marilyn Monroe, Khrushchev and Nixon, Jackie Kennedy, Che Guevara), much humour; evocative landscapes and cityscapes from America and Europe from the late 1940s to modern times.

The exhibition's opening night drew an enormous and appreciative crowd of all ages (below), with a large showing of hipsters (some touting film cameras). If you missed it, this exhibition, Personal Best for Leica, is open to 11 March (Mon-Sat 10:00-23:00, Sun 12:00-18:00), admission free.

Below: a study in appreciation. Black and white photos in black frames with white mounts on white walls. Each photograph was absolutely flawless in its presentation - prints without any visible scratches, dust specks or blemishes. The darkroom work complements that of the photographer.

Below: Erwitt's Che Guevara comes across as a vain poseur, basking in the light of his self-image. No doubt Guevara was delighted by it.

A digression. Note the three people in the foreground; all are using mobile devices - to communicate or to photograph with. Today, we can all be Erwitts; two billion (at least) mobile phones with built-in cameras are in use around the world. What mobile-phone snappers lack in skill and lens quality, they make up for in ubiquity. Yesterday's meteorite over Chelyabinsk, for example, was caught on camera by thousands, as well as by CCTV and dashboard cameras (a very Russian phenomenon).
Below: my favourite image from the exhibition - steam train, Wyoming, 1954. Exactly my time, my place. Erwitt's photos of Wyoming and North Carolina were for me the stars of the show.

A word about Leica, host of the exhibition. My first proper camera was a Leica (an M2, before that I had a pre-war Leica IIIb). I used a Leica rangefinder as my principal camera from a quarter of a century (1982-2007). What a brand. What associations. Yet today - lost. The sense of a digital camera costing $7,000 (body only) that comes with lenses that neither autofocus nor have vibration reduction (for several thousand additional dollars) is lost on me. Only a purist, a show-off or obsessive could consider such a purchase - especially since each successive digital Leica rangefinder only shows to highlight the shortcomings of its predecessor. A Nikon D3200 does an admirable job for a twentieth of the price. (If you are a Leica fan thinking of leaving a rude comment here - do you want to buy one of my old Leicas? I have an M2, M3 and M6 I want to get rid of, with 21, 35 and two 50mm lenses...)

A final photo digression. It would be good to see vibration reduction/image stabilisation technology in use on fast (f2 and faster) prime lenses. Manufacturers have ignored this - it would give photographers a good reason to update their prime lens fleet.

This time last year:
The first heavy snow of winter

This time two year:
God's Dwelling Place - a short story

This time three years ago:
Beat this for a snowy winter!

This time four years ago:
Poland's most popular outergarments

This time five years ago:
The Frost Gods return


T. said...


I would be interested in purchasing the mentioned Leica M3.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ T.

Drop me an e-mail with your contact details and I'll tell you about my M3 (I presume you'd want to buy it with 50mm f2 Summicron lens)...

T. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.