Imagine: The Many Lives of William Klein

I was not able to visit the William Klein + Daido Moriyama exhibition at the Tate Modern earlier this year but did see this interesting documentary on William Klein on BBC2. Klein was interviewed by Alan Yentob as they spent time together in New York, Paris and London, visiting Klein’s old haunts and sites of his photographic experiences.

He was born in New York in 1929 and as well as a photographer was a painter, film-maker and graphic artist. William Klein is often cited as a tour de force of street photography; however, his influence is far more extensive than that. He was photographing around the same time as Henri Cartier Bresson but Bresson was known as the ghost of photography – very much in the background of his exhibits. In contrast Klein was known as ‘a fist in the face’ of photographers. Ironically Klein bought one of his first cameras from Bresson.

His book ‘Life is Good and Good For You in New York’ created in just three months and published in Paris in 1956, was one of the publishing sensations of the decade. Ground-breaking in its use of movement blur, high contrast printing, ultra-rapid film, wide angle lenses, cropping and page design, it was followed by photo-essays on Tokyo, Moscow and Paris. In addition, Klein gained widespread fame for his work as a fashion photographer for Vogue, despite the fact that he had no particular interest in fashion!

Today Klein at 85 years old still lives and works in Paris with a keen interest in (film) photography. He recently photographed the extraordinary scenes he found in London in 2011 among the crowds during the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

A lot can still be learned from iconic classic photographers like Mr Klein –  may he live a long and healthy life continuing to photograph.


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