BETWEEN THE SEXES by Elliott Erwitt


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A veteran photojournalist raids a lifetime's trove of powerful images to illustrate the ticklish subject of how men and women relate to each other -- or don't. Erwitt (To the Dogs, not reviewed) explains in an amiably rambling introduction that the impetus for this book came from a chance assignment to do ""photos of couples"" for a Japanese magazine. Looking back over his oeuvre, he found the theme a constant and powerful one. All the pictures, sumptuously reproduced here in black and white, are technically accomplished. Most are pointed, emotionally loaded, and charged with a dry sense of narrative wit. Graphically striking, the book uses left- and right-page image counterposings to ironic effect. Logically, Erwitt opens with shots of children, then moves on to adult lovers, and closes with elderly pairs. A grainy and light-infused 1972 shot from Rio de Janeiro shows a young boy and girl meeting conspiratorially under a tree: He sits atop a tricycle brandishing a toy pistol as she eyes him with gravity -- a miniature Bonnie and Clyde. A 1952 photo from Valencia, Spain, shows a young couple seen through a kitchen doorway in a dance-step embrace, their faces obscured, she with her apron on. In Kraków, Poland, in 1972, Erwitt captured a middle-aged woman in a garish striped frock offering her hand to be kissed by a drab-looking businessman. Towards the end, aged couples argue in Saint-Tropez, fill a car with gas in Iowa, dance on a Manhattan rooftop. Erwitt presents himself as a voyeur with a purpose, a lensman dedicated to capturing glimpses of our shared, international human condition. From stagy set-up to candid ditty, this selection shows off Erwitt's skills as a master of the modern photographic idiom, one with a clear idea of what he wants his work to say.

Pub Date: Nov. 21st, 1994
Page count: 127pp
Publisher: Norton