In Living Kolor

Published November 8, 2013

PHOTO OF ELLIOTT ERWITT, ABOVE, COURTESY OF DAVID X. PRUTTING/BFANYC.COM; PHOTOS FROM KOLOR COURTESY OF TENEUES

Elliott Erwitt’s new book Kolor, out now via teNeues, might come as something of a surprise to fans of Erwitt’s photography. Many of Erwitt’s photos have become iconic, indelible images—among them, President Nixon jamming a finger into the chest of Nikita Krushchev; bulldogs on a stoop; Arnold Schwarzenegger holding a photo of his own super-jacked image in 1977; a couple kissing in a rearview mirror; Fidel Castro at the U.N.; and of course, Marilyn Monroe and that subway grate.  But nearly all of them are in black and white, the medium in which he shot most often; it’s a relatively little-known fact that the 85-year-old Erwitt has also amassed nearly a half-million color photos throughout his career, of which he chose 400 of the most striking, witty, and thought-provoking to comprise Kolor.

When we visited with Erwitt during a signing on Wednesday at the Cole Haan flagship in Columbus Circle, he was wearing a necktie with cartoons of dog bones on it—dogs are, famously, one of Erwitt’s favorite subjects—and accepting from a waiter an hors d’oeuvre from Per Se, which catered the event. “I’m amoral!” he said affably, when we wondered whether the fact that all the photos in the book were shot on film represented some kind of ideological resistance to digital photography. “I don’t have any rules.”

For an old-school photographer, Erwitt is utterly unfazed by the proliferation of smartphone photos. “It hasn’t changed the art, but it’s certainly changed the density of pictures. But that’s not art. I mean, if you have a pencil, you’re not necessarily an artist,” he said. “I think they take pictures because it’s fun to take pictures—especially of your kids or your dog or your cat. No harm in that.”

He’s still having fun, too. “So far, so good!” 

KOLOR IS NOW AVAILABLE.