March 31, 2015

The Son Of The Woman In The Family Of Man

Elliott_Erwitt_Lucienne_FOM.jpg
1953 photo by Elliott Erwitt/Magnum Photos via NYT

Magnum photographer Misha Erwitt has a very nice remembrance of his mother Lucienne Matthews, who was photographed by her husband Elliott Erwitt a few days after the birth of their daughter Ellen.

Erwitt's 1953 photo was included in Edward Steichen and Wayne Miller's landmark exhibition, "The Family of Man," which made Ellen's butt famous.

My mother and my father divorced seven years later -- after I; my brother, David; and sister Jennifer came along -- making her a single mother raising four children, ages 1 to 7, as well as a changing cast of animal refugees, averaging at around 6. We all lived in an apartment in Manhattan, then in the Bronx.

You wouldn't know it by this photo, but this woman was a pretty tough cookie. She survived being starved and orphaned by the Nazis in occupied Holland. Stories about her carrying messages for the Dutch underground in her schoolbooks, and having her toe smashed by a Nazi's rifle, were told and retold. She single-handedly raised the four of us while working full time at a variety of jobs ending with her longest, as a ticket agent for Pan Am. She endured two spinal fusions, lupus and chronic pain -- including my adolescence -- and she never flinched. Now that's a strong woman.

The Woman In The Family Of Man [lens.blogs.nytimes]

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