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June 21, 2024

The Story Behind Elliott Erwitt’s Famed Photograph of a Bulldog on a New York City Stoop

Elliott Erwitt’s comical photograph of the bulldog sitting on its owner’s lap exemplifies the adage that dogs really do look like their owners. Well known for his dog images, Erwitt captured the precise moment when, framed by the stoop of a New York City building, the head and body of the dog were in perfect alignment with the arms and legs of its owner. Somewhat fantastical, the superimposed head highlights what Erwitt called the “visual contradictions that are a photographer’s dream.”

(Elliott Erwitt. New York City, USA. 2000. © Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos)

As Erwitt recounted: “I was out walking with my friend Hiroji [Kubota] around the corner from my studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I didn’t have my camera. I saw the situation and I said, ‘Could I borrow your camera?’ And I borrowed his Leica. He was very generous and let me use it and I shot the whole roll of film on it.”

By the very last picture on the roll, all the compositional and conceptual elements were in place, the absurdity of the image further supported by a second dog on the left sitting in exactly the same pose as the surreal dog-man composite. The contact shows Erwitt’s patience, shooting around an image methodically until he has all the elements synchronized for maximum effect. As he said, “It’s a lot of pictures getting to the good one.”

(Elliott Erwitt. USA. New York City. 2000. © Elliott Erwitt | Magnum Photos)


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