Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt publishes never-seen-before photographs in ‘Found, Not Lost’

Documentary and commercial photographer Elliott Erwitt is well known for his ability to capture the humor and spontaneity of everyday life in his black and white photography. Over the past two years, he immersed himself in his 70-year career-spanning archive to select and publish never-seen-before images for his book, “Found, Not Lost.”

In his 90s, Erwitt found himself the caretaker of his expansive archive. For “Found, Not Lost,” he pored over 600,000 photographs with the help of his editor, Stuart Smith, and longtime studio manager Mio Nakamura. The process allowed him to revisit his early work and see something in the photographs he hadn’t seen before. They hand-selected contact sheets and negatives from those Erwitt developed in his bathroom sink at home at 17, to those taken throughout his career at Magnum Photos, including images from his most recent assignments in Scotland and Cuba.

The 171 images in the book include images photographed in Europe, Russia, the United States, Brazil and Japan, with the earliest one taken in 1947. There are some you would expect from Erwitt — lighter moments, including children and dogs — but this collection also includes more of Erwitt’s photojournalism and some very intimate photographs of his wife and first-born daughter.

Here is a short excerpt from the book’s introductory essay by Vaughn Wallace:

“Imagine, at ninety-two years old, turning back to the thousands of photographs made throughout the many chapters of your career and, on second and third glance, discovering a significance in those images that you missed when you first saw them a few lifetimes ago. This is precisely what happened to Elliott Erwitt when, during an exhaustive inventory of his archive, he became aware of a new, unfamiliar heartbeat animating his older work. This current chapter of Erwitt’s career is no longer marked by relentless travel; of packed schedules, back-to-back assignments and 18-hour days. Even before the global pandemic, Erwitt’s days are largely spent in contemplation, surrounded by the negatives, contact sheets and ephemera a seven-decade photographic life has offered him. (As if to underscore this shift, a recent documentary on his life took the title Silence Sounds Good.) It was in this quiet that he was able to examine (and re-examine) the reflection of his life’s work. In this solitude, Elliott became aware that he was seeing his past work differently — a desire to re-interpret the work that’s cemented his legacy as a master photographer. He recognized that, even in a career that has gone from accolade to accolade, there is always something to examine, to reassess — always something to see again, for the first time.”

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