William Klein (photographer)
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
He is known for such photos as Broadway and 103rd Street, New York, 1954–1955.
Life and work
Klein was born in New York City into an impoverished Jewish family. He graduated from high school early and enrolled at the City College of New York at the age of 14 to study sociology. He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in Germany and later France, where he permanently settled after being discharged.
In 1948, Klein enrolled at the Sorbonne, and later studied with Fernand Léger. At the time, Klein was interested in abstract painting and sculpture. In 1952, he had two successful solo exhibitions in Milan and began a collaboration with the architect Angelo Mangiarotti. Klein also experimented with kinetic art, and it was at an exhibition of his kinetic sculptures that he met Alexander Liberman, the art director for Vogue.
He moved on to photography and achieved widespread fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue and for his photo essays on various cities. Despite having no formal training as a photographer, Klein won the Prix Nadar in 1957 for New York, a book of photographs taken during a brief return to his hometown in 1954. Klein's work was considered revolutionary for its "ambivalent and ironic approach to the world of fashion", its "uncompromising rejection of the then prevailing rules of photography" and for his extensive use of wide-angle and telephoto lenses, natural lighting and motion blur. The New York Times' Katherine Knorr writes that, along with Robert Frank, Klein is considered "among the fathers of street photography, one of those mixed compliments that classifies a man who is hard to classify."
Klein's most popular photographic works are Gun 1, New York (1955), The Holy family on bike (Rome, 1956), Cineposter (Tokyo, 1961), Vogue (fashion models in the streets of New York, Rome and Paris for Vogue magazine, 1963), Love on the Beat (Serge Gainsbourg album sleeve, 1984), Club Allegro Fortissimo (1990) and Autoportrait (a book of painted contact prints, 1995).
The world of fashion was the subject for the first feature film Klein directed in 1966, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, which, like his other two fiction features, Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple, is a satire.
He directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries, including the cinéma vérité documentary Grands soirs et petits matins, the 1964 documentary Cassius the Great, re-edited with new footage as Muhammed Ali, The Greatest in 1969. He produced over 250 television commercials. A long time tennis fan, in 1982 he directed The French, a documentary on the French Open tennis championship.
Klein died in Paris on September 10, 2022, aged 96.
- Broadway by Light (1958). A study of Broadway by night.
- Les troubles de la circulation (1962). Paris traffic jams for French TV.
- Le business et la mode (1962).
- Les français et la politique (1962).
- Gare de Lyon (1963).
- Cassius, le grand (1964–65). Film of Sonny Liston Cassius Clay fight in Miami.
- Aux grands magasins with Simone Signoret (1964).
- Loin du Viêt Nam (1967). Collective film with segments contributed by Klein, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Claude Lelouch, Alain Resnais, Joris Ivens and Agnès Varda.
- Muhammed Ali, The Greatest (1969).
- Festival panafricain d'Alger (1969).
- Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther (1970). On Eldridge Cleaver, Black Panther Party leader.
- Hollywood, California: A Loser's Opera' (1977).
- Grands soirs & petits matins (1978). May 1968 in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
- The Little Richard Story (1980).
- The French (1982). A documentary about the French Open tennis tournament in 1981.
- Contacts (1983). Klein comments photographs by great photographers.
- Ralentis (1984).
- Mode in France (1984). A documentary on French fashion.
- Babilée '91 (1992). A filmed ballet.
- In and out of fashion (1994).
- Messiah (1999). Based on Georg Friedrich Haendel's oratorio Messiah directed by Marc Minkowski.
- Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966). Satire on the fashion world (Prix Jean Vigo). With Dorothy McGowan, Delphine Seyrig, Jacques Seiler, Alice Sapritch, Philippe Noiret, Samy Frey and Roland Topor.
- Mr. Freedom (1969). Satire on American Imperialism. With Delphine Seyrig, John Abbey, Donald Pleasence, Jean-Claude Drouot and Serge Gainsbourg.
- L'anniversaire de Charlotte (1974). 8 mm short film for the Paris Film Festival. With Charlotte Levy, Roland Topor, les Gazolines and Coline Serreau.
- The Model Couple (1977). When sociology and statistics take over everyday life. With Anémone, André Dussollier, Zouc, Jacques Boudet, Eddie Constantine and Georges Descrières.
- New York. London: Photography Magazine, 1956.
- Life is good and good for you in New York: Trance Witness Revels.
- Life is good and good for you in New York: Trance Witness Revels. Éditions du Seuil, 1958.
- New York 1954–55. Marval, 1995. New edition.
- Life is Good & Good for You in New York Trance Witness Revels. Books on Books 5. New York: Errata Editions, 2010. Template:ISBN. Essays by Klein, Max Kozloff and Jeffrey Ladd.
- Life is Good & Good for You in New York Trance Witness Revels. Books on Books 5. New York: Errata Editions, 2012.
- Rome. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1958 (Petite Planète series). Template:ISBN.
- Rome: The City and Its People.
- Moscow. Crown, 1964. First edition.
- Tokyo. Crown, 1964. First edition.
- Mister Freedom. Korinsha Press, 1970. First edition.
- Close up. Thames & Hudson, 1989.
- Torino '90. Federico Motta Editore, 1990.
- Mode in & out. Seuil, 1994. Template:ISBN.
- William Klein Films. Paris: Marval/Maison Europeenne De La Photographie, 1998. First edition. Template:ISBN.
- Paris + Klein. Germany: Edition Braus, 2002. Template:ISBN.
- MMV Romani. Fendi-Contrasto, Centre Pompidou. Template:ISBN.
- William Klein, rétrospective. Marval, 2005.
- Roma + Klein. du Chêne, 2009.
- William Klein: Black and Light, Early Abstracts, 1952 – 2015. HackelBury Fine Art, 2015. Template:ISBN.
John Galliano controversy
The photographer, who lives in France he was paid in 2007, 200,000 euros ($271,800) in damage for unauthorized use his work. In his March 28 decision, Judge Claude Vallet said John Galliano's advertisements too closely resembled Klein's hallmark "painted contacts" — oversized painted contact sheets streaked with stokes of vivid color.