Helen Levitt (1913–2009) numbers among the foremost exponents of street photography. It was in the 1930s that this passionate observer and chronicler of New York street life first began taking pictures of the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, the Bronx, and Harlem.
And with her eye for the surreal and for ironic details, she was to spend many further decades immortalizing everyday people in dynamic compositions: children at play, passersby striking a pose, couples conversing. Levitt’s unsentimental pictorial language gives rise to a humorous and theatrical pageant situated beyond any moral or social documentary clichés.
Helen Levitt was also a revolutionary in her color photographs. As early as 1959, she began working in color as a means of artistic expression, thus numbering among the earliest representatives of New Color Photography. And in 1974, Levitt became the first color photographer to be given an exhibition by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
The book accompanying the retrospective of the Albertina Museum (11.10.2018 – 27.01.2019) features around 130 of her iconic works.
By the Way
The black and white, silent film In the Street was shot in the mid-1940s in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb, and James Agee were the cinematographers; they used small, hidden 16 mm film cameras to record street life, especially of children.