The exhibition had long been planned for the opening of the new Leica Gallery in New York, and to mark Elliott Erwitt’s induction into the Leica Hall of Fame. Now the presentation is a posthumous tribute to the people-friendly observer, dog lover, and incomparable photographer of the century, who died at the end of November 2023 at the age of 95.

Already during his lifetime, Elliott Erwitt was considered one of the most significant and influential photographers in the world. A long-term member of the Magnum Photo Agency, he repeatedly put together perfect compositions, filled with charm, humour and levity. Whether he photographed Marilyn Monroe or Che Guevara, a loving couple in a rear-view mirror or an elegant leap with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, or portraits of people or dogs, many of the motifs found in his enormous body of work are already highly-valued, iconic images and have found their place in the annals of photographic history. In October 2023, Leica Camera AG honoured him with the prestigious Leica Hall of Fame Award. An exhibition at the headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, was the first prelude to the celebrations, and now the Leica Gallery New York is honouring the great and admired photographer. In this interview, gallery director Michael Foley talks about his own path to photography, the new Leica Gallery and the first exhibition.

Congratulations on the successful premiere. Could you briefly explain what makes the Leica Gallery New York so special?
New York City’s status as a cultural epicentre for art is unparalleled. The city has a rich and storied history as a global hub for artistic expression, and it continues to be a magnet for artists, collectors, and art enthusiasts from around the world. Our gallery contributes to this rich tapestry by providing an authentic perspective on the world of photography, adding yet another layer to the city’s artistic heritage. Leica Gallery New York is nestled in the heart of the city’s vibrant Meatpacking District and represents Leica’s first company-owned gallery in New York. The gallery is positioned on the ground level, flowing seamlessly from our retail component. The spacious exhibition area is flooded with natural light provided by three skylights and supported with an even wash of overhead fixtures.

What was your own path to photography and the Leica Gallery?
The camera was the tool that I found to bring me closer to the people I loved. I never thought photography could be a career, but sometime after college I was asked to join the team at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco. In my five years there, I received an education unlike any other. I learned the language of photography, to be able to see and speak about it, and discovered how photographs can work together in a curated exhibition. From there, I moved to New York and worked in two notable galleries that specialized in photography, Howard Greenberg, and Yancey Richardson. In 2004, I chose to open my own gallery. Closing the gallery after 19 years was a difficult choice; but it turns out that opening the Leica Gallery in the Meatpacking District is what I’ve been preparing for my entire professional career.

What will the exhibition programme look like?
Our exhibitions will be moderately paced at five per year. The schedule will be anchored by exhibitions planned well in advance, allowing for some open opportunities to respond with appropriate exhibitions that reflect the landscape of cultural events and activities in New York. We aim to curate exhibitions that explore various themes, styles, and genres within the world of photography. This diversity allows us to engage with a broad spectrum of photographers and art enthusiasts, celebrating the art in all its forms. The exhibition by Elliott Erwitt, is followed by a show with the 2023 LOBA winner, Ismail Ferdous.

Do you have a motto or philosophy behind your planning?
Our philosophy is to foster a community of photographers, artists, and photography enthusiasts who share a passion for the art of visual storytelling. We believe in the power of photography to capture the essence of a moment and inspire creativity in others. Through our exhibitions, workshops, and events, we aim to ignite and nurture this creative spark within our community.

Is there a photo in the current Erwitt exhibition that is particularly important to you or with which you associate a special story?
I am in love with Elliott’s photograph of the chihuahua taken in New York, 1946. Hilarious. New Yorkers have a special love affair with their pets, especially their dogs. Elliott gets on hands and knees and greets the dog on its level, delivering a street portrait literally made on the street. The dog is endearing, sweatered up, eyes bulging, without a leash, ready for the close-up. What makes this more than a dog portrait is the presence of the owner’s shoes. They are huge in comparison, but I can only wonder who is walking who! I walked my dog for many years on the Upper West Side, next to Central Park, not far from where Elliott lived. I have a soft spot for pictures of New York dogs, and this is one of the best!

Elliott Erwitt, Love & Laughter
March 14 to May 26, 2024
Leica Gallery New York, 406 W 13th St, New York, NY 10014

You can find a comprehensive portfolio of Erwitt’s images in LFI Magazine 8/2023.

Elliott Erwitt was born on July 26, 1928, in Paris, the son of Russian immigrants. He grew up in Italy and France, before the family emigrated to New York in 1939. As a teenager, he lived in Hollywood, where he discovered an interest in photography. In 1948, he began working as a professional photographer in New York. He joined the Magnum Photo Agency in 1953, eventually acting as its president for a number of terms. For many decades, he was one of the best-known and most successful photographers of his time. Erwitt was very busy throughout his life. He was a frequent traveller, although his flat on the Upper West Side in Manhattan remained the centre of his life. He passed away peacefully there on November 30, 2023, surrounded by his family. He was married four times and is survived by six children, ten grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Find more about Elliott Erwitt on his homepage  and at Magnum Photos.

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