William Klein

(b. 1928)

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(1928– ).

Photographer and filmmaker. More widely appreciated in Europe than in the United States, he remains best known for innovative work of the 1950s. In these startling and subjective photographs, he introduced a raw, high-impact aesthetic into art photography. Often Klein's camera revealed unexpected absurdities within the mundane texture of everyday experience. He used stylistic devices such as brutal cropping, awkward poses and gestures, and strong patterns to capture the immediacy of candid moments. Previously, such techniques had usually been tolerated only as unanticipated side effects in journalistic photography-on-the-run. A native New Yorker, he attended City College of New York before serving for two years in postwar Europe with the U.S. Army. Since his 1948 discharge in Paris, he has made his home there. He took classes at the Sorbonne, studied painting with Fernand Léger before turning to photography, and subsequently experimented with mural-sized abstract photograms. On a 1954–55 visit of several months in New York, he captured the images for Life Is Good and Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels (1956; expanded and reissued in 1995 as New York 1954–55), which established his early reputation upon publication in Paris. Although not widely known in the United States for many years, in both style and subject the book anticipated Robert Frank's landmark The Americans (1959). Like Frank, Klein injected sarcasm, social criticism, and tastelessness into a photographic aesthetic that could still accommodate lyricism. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, Klein also brought a new dramatic edge to fashion photography in highly successful, elegant work for Vogue. In 1958 he made his first film, Broadway by Light, and from 1965 until 1980 worked principally as an experimental filmmaker. Klein's other publications include Rome (1958), Tokyo (1964), Moscow (1965), Close Up (1990), In and Out of Fashion (1994), Portfolio (1999), and Paris + Klein (2002).

Subjects: Art.

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