Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Masterpiece by Helen Levitt


New York, 1988. Helen Levitt


While my inbox is flooded with images every day, it never bothers me as a picture takes so little time to look at. The only problem is that most of the images rarely stand out or move me. Yesterday, however, this Helen Levitt popped up advertising a new show at the Kahmann Gallery in Amsterdam and it just struck a chord with me.

Levitt, now 95, has been photographing for 70 years and is best known for her black and white street photographs of children at play. Cartier-Bresson was her friend and mentor and like him, she bought a small Leica camera in 1936, which enabled her to move quickly and freely through the streets of New York. Her color work only came to light recently, but like her fellow New York School photographer, Saul Leiter, the color work is a revelation, bringing a wonderful painterly quality to what is otherwise highly photographic work.

There's so much going on in this picture - the children's dilemma, the fabric of the woman's dress, the incidental action outside of the rectangle of the phone booth and the strange way it breaks up the picture, the intersecting lines of color, the abstract texture of the sidewalk, and of course above all the humor of the situation. Now that's a picture!

20 comments:

makes coffee nervous said...

beautiful! you could almost hear the sounds of the street and feel the heat of the sun.

Linda S. Socha said...

I can relate to this one on many levels! Thanks for sharing it
Linda

miss milki said...

Fabulous!

stacy said...

you are correct sir - a fine picture indeed!

N said...

This may be my favorite photo of all time! Have you been to ICP recently? There is a small print of this picture currently being shown there as part of Vince Aletti's "This Is Not A Fashion Photograph" exhibit.

damarislucy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Holmes said...

I love the fact that she pulled her framing down to eliminate the phone booth logo and its color, which surely would have drawn my eye up and away.

NVA said...

i like this images...
it looks very funny

Barry said...

It's the yellow-painted curb that gets me. Wow, what an image.

Angela said...

agreed!

...love Maegan said...

So fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Looks more like 78 than 88. Just my 2 cents.

dan said...

love the way you described the photo :)

Joanna Goddard said...

i love this!

katharine said...

one of the many great things about her work is the way she can sue children but the images are never sentimental or overly sweet.

The Year in Pictures said...

Katharine -

I presume you mean "use" not "sue"!

JD.

Anonymous said...

100 % in agreement!

Anonymous said...

Great photo. I think it was Walker Evans who was her mentor rather than Cartier-Bresson. She assisted Evans on his NY subway hidden camera portraits.

Anonymous said...

I just spent the day at MoMA and loved it, but this is the photo that just made my day.

Anonymous said...

tears for the artlout helen