I had a rare spare few hours in New York last week and decided to pop on over to the International Center of Photography Museum on Bowery. I had scoped out what the exhibits were ahead of time and decided that I would see Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment. I love his work and there would be some other exhibits there too that I could see. I was planning a lovely afternoon playing tourist in my own city.
As anticipated, the museum was lovely and the Cartier-Bresson exhibit was great, full of wonderful photos. I'll tell you what I did not anticipate. As I rounded the corner to exit the featured exhibit, I came into a smaller gallery and was confronted by the most captivating images I have seen in a long time. This was Elliot Erwitt: Pittsburgh 1950. Wow! I LOVED these images. What was the story here?
Turns out that a young Elliot Erwitt had been invited by economist and fellow photographer, Roy Stryker, to partake in his newest project, the Pittsburgh Photographic Library. He gave Erwiit free reign to document the transformation of Pittsburgh from an industrial hub to a modern metropolis. While roaming the streets, Erwitt shot thousands of photos of the changing city, showing the daily life of Pittsburgh's denizens as well as the demolition and rebuild of its sites.
A few months later, Eilliot was called off to war in Germany leaving the negatives behind at the Library. After the project came to an end in the mid-1950's the negatives were transferred a couple of times and were presumed lost forever. In 2011, they were found by a student, Vaughn Wallace, at the University of Pittsburgh and were brought to Erwitt's attention. In 2017 the two collaborated on publishing the book, Elliot Erwitt: Pittsburgh 1950 (which is wonderful). This is the first time these photos have been on exhibit in the USA.
The images are so good and the quaintly of the printing is so rich, they jump off the wall and grab you in to them. I loved it and also loved the surprise of finding them when in fact, I went to see something else entirely. I love when that happens.