Helen Levitt passes away at 95

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Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Nando on Mon Mar 30, 2009 11:35 am

I'm sad to report that Helen Levitt passed away at 95 this past Saturday. In my opinion, she was one of the best street photographers of the 20th century.

An article about her work with a link to a slide-show at the bottom:
http://www.lensculture.com/levitt.html
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Nando on Mon Mar 30, 2009 12:33 pm

The New York Times article reporting her death:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/arts/design/30levitt.html?_r=1&hpw
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Nando on Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:35 pm

From the above NY Times article:

In his 1999 biography of Walker Evans, James R. Mellow wrote that the only photographers Evans “felt had something original to say were Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt and himself.”

An NPR story about Helen Levitt:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2009/03/helen_levitt.html?ps=bb1
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by crowellphotographs on Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:03 pm

Thanks for sharing Nando. I haven't read the article yet but I really enjoyed quickly looking thru the gallery. Her photographs of children at play are stunning. I couldn't help but laugh at the two old men and their watermelon too.
I'm a bit torn, I love the hidden spectator aspect of the vast majority of these but My absolute favorite is the photograph of the four kids hamming it up for the camera.
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Nando on Tue Mar 31, 2009 4:09 pm

These two are among my favourite photos:

http://www.foam.nl/pix/content/HelenLevitt%20Phonebooth.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5180uJ2BmlL._SS400_.jpg

I do gravitate more to her earlier black and white stuff. I've always been meaning to buy one of her books. "A Way of Seeing" and "Crosstown" are rather expensive collectibles now. I've seen 1st edition of "Crosstown" selling for over $1000! I think that there was a recent retrospective book.

crowellphotographs wrote:...I love the hidden spectator aspect of the vast majority of these...

It is said that Helen Levitt sometimes used the WINTU finder on her Leica. It's a special finder that allows someone to shoot the camera at a 90-degree angle. So she would be looking one way but actually shooting something to her left. It's a neat device that not only allows viewing at 90-degrees but also allows you to use rangefinder focusing. Maybe I should get one...

Anyway, I regard Levitt to be a giant of street photography. When I think of street photography in New York - I always think Winogrand and Levitt. Although one cannot deny the genius of Winogrand, I almost always prefer the aesthetics of Levitt's photographs. I was truly sad to hear of her passing.
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Kenneth Armstrong on Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:50 pm

That phone booth pic is epic.

I wasn't really familiar with her work, thanks for the heads up, even if it was through unfortunate circumstances.
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Re: Helen Levitt passes away at 95

Post by Nando on Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:31 pm

James Agee's forward to A Way of Seeing

http://www.masters-of-photography.com/L/levitt/levitt_articles2.html

From Keith F. Davis's book, "An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital: The Hallmark Photographic Collection"

http://www.masters-of-photography.com/L/levitt/levitt_articles3.html

From the text linked above:

"For Baudelaire, the key words were:

' Multitude, solitude: equal and convertible terms for the active and fecund poet. He who does not know how to people his solitude will not know either how to be alone in a bustling crowd.

The poet enjoys the incomparable privilege of being able as he likes to be himself and others. Like those wandering souls which search for a body, he can enter every person whenever he wants .... The solitary and pensive walker draws from this universal communion a singular sense of intoxication.'

No photographer is more typical of this approach than Helen Levitt, whose lyrical work was a direct result of her love of walking and her desire to immerse herself in the "fugitive and infinite" vitality of the street."

My favourite Helen Levitt photo:
http://www.foam.nl/pix/pageVisuals/772_1.jpg
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