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Factoid via The Guardian’s 2003 Elliott Erwitt profile:

However, his reputation was secured by a number of landmark assignments during the late 50s and early 60s, all of them courtesy of his homeland, Russia. The first took place in the summer of 1959 when Erwitt was sent to Moscow to get pictures of an industrial fair.

By coincidence he arrived on the same day that vice-president Richard Nixon was due to appear with Communist party chairman Nikita Khrushchev. In front of a model kitchen, which had been assembled by Macy’s department store, Khrushchev launched into the infamous “kitchen debate” with Nixon.

Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon 1959, Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos
Nikita Khrushchev and Richard Nixon 1959, Elliott Erwitt / Magnum Photos

“It was ridiculous,” Erwitt recalls. “Nixon was saying, ‘We’re richer than you are’, and Khrushchev would say, ‘We are catching up and we will surpass you.’ That was the level of the debate. At one point Nixon was getting so irritating I thought I heard Khrushchev say in Russian ‘Go fuck my grandmother’.”

More importantly Erwitt got a snap of Nixon belligerently prodding Khrushchev in the lapel, which later appeared on posters during Nixon’s presidential bid.

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