Each week, we bring you the backstory of work featured in our collection, written by a member of our curatorial team.
by Poppy Simpson, Head of Content and Curation
I’ve long loved this photograph by Elliott Erwitt—more than perhaps his most famous image of lovers (you know—this classic one of a young couple necking in the car, while parked at a picture-perfect California overlook).
It’s the intimacy of this shot that arrests me—that extraordinary sense of being privy to an ordinary, yet deeply private, moment in time.
I knew nothing more of the photograph, beyond what its brief, functional title revealed—‘SPAIN. Valencia. 1952.’ And then, last week, when putting together our first collection of works in partnership with Magnum Photos, I did some light research.
An interview back with the New York Times’ Lens blog in 2011 provided some context: “That picture was taken in 1952 while I was still doing my military service in the U.S. Army while stationed in Europe,” Erwitt explained. “These were friends of mine living in Spain that I visited during a furlough. During my time in the Army, I took some of my better freelance pictures and did not have to worry about paying the rent.”
My next online rummage turned up some information on Erwitt’s subjects. Turns out, those friends—the oblivious, dancing couple—are none other than Robert Frank and his artist wife, Mary.
Cue a delightful 10 minutes of me imagining these now-titans of the photographic world as young, espadrilled bohemians having wine-fuelled, passionate and intellectually vibrant conversations over tapas, or, (and this will make sense only if you look very carefully at what’s written on the kitchen wall) dead potatoes.
PAPAS, RIP. Indeed.
Meural has partnered with Magnum Photos to bring you the best of their extraordinary photographic archive—from titans of the past, such as Robert Capa, to contemporary voices, such as Alec Soth.