A Masterpiece by Helen Levitt

Thursday, March 5, 2009


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!

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