Helen Levitt: Seven Decades of New York Street Photography

Helen Levitt’s street photography from New York spans seven decades, photographs taken mostly throughout working-class neighborhoods in New York.  Levitt’s wonderfully candid black-and-white shots from the 1930s and 1940s, of urban kids playing and ordinary people going about their lives, have inspired generations of photographers.

Levitt was a pioneer of color photography, starting seriously in 1959, when she received a Guggenheim grant to explore her familiar territory, but shifting from black-and-white to color.  Levitt went back out into the streets in the 1970s with her camera.  Forty of her color photographs were shown as a slide show at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1974, one of the very first times that photographs were formally displayed this way in a museum, and one of the first exhibitions of serious color photography anywhere in the world.  That show was presented 31 years after her first solo exhibition at MoMA in 1943.  Her work was also part of the famous Family of Man exhibition.

The acclaimed writer James Agee once said: “At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work that I know.  In their general quality and coherence, moreover, the photographs as a whole body, as a book, seem to me to combine into a unified view of the world, an uninsistent but irrefutable manifesto of a way of seeing, and in a gently and wholly unpretentious way, a major poetic work.”

Helen Levitt: Seven Decades of New York Street Photography

TechnoratiTechnorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Please Remember Me and Bookmark This:

Speechless: Dylan Alone in Warhol’s Photobooth

Attempts at realistic self-portraits have always been a means of expression for inward-looking romanticism, melancholy, and trying to stop time for a moment to preserve a fleeting physical and emotional presence. Think of Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Picasso, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Chuck Close, to name just a few.

Andy Warhol introduced the idea of the movie self-portrait. Warhol’s Screen Tests were filmed from early 1964 until November 1966. Visitors to The Factory who had potential “star” quality would be seated in front of a tripod mounted camera and asked to be as still as possible. They were told not to blink while the camera was running, a camera that was loaded with a minute’s worth of film. People made their own movie self portraits, while sitting all alone in the room with the camera turned on.

The range of emotions that flickered in the eyes and nervous facial twitches and grimaces revealed a tremendous amount about the underlying person behind the mask, and infused these portraits with waves of feelings that could rarely be communicated with a still image. Even though no one else is present in the room, the subject does not really have control. Something vulnerable is revealed. Waves of feelings and emotions and insecurities pass before our eyes. Here’s the screen test/movie self portrait by an obviously uncomfortable Bob Dylan.

A Warhol Screen Test: Bob Dylan’s Movie Self Portrait

Bob Dylan: The B&W Photographs

TechnoratiTechnorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Please Remember Me and Bookmark This:

%d bloggers like this: