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A shadow history: the unseen photographs of Elliott Erwitt

Known for portraits of the likes of Jackie Kennedy and Che Guevara, a book of previously unpublished work reveals the 92-year-old maverick’s incredible range

At 92, Elliott Erwitt is one of the grand old men of photography. Over a 70-year career he has amassed an archive that comprises around 600,000 images, the most well known possessing a quiet, witty charm that one of his friends, Henri Cartier-Bresson, once described as “a smile from his deeper self”.

Self-effacing and defiantly old fashioned in his views, Erwitt has long been out of step with the drift of contemporary photography, insisting that it is a craft rather than an art form. He once described himself as “a professional photographer by trade and an amateur photographer by vocation”, which somewhat underplays the acute compositional skill that informs his best-known images – including a visceral portrait of a grief-stricken Jackie Kennedy at her husband’s funeral and a furious Richard Nixon prodding Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in the chest during their famously heated debate in Moscow in 1959.

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