William Klein

William Klein

American, born 1928

William Klein

It was recognized long ago that so-called good photographic technique did not invariably make the best picture. Sometimes the gritty, graphic simplicity of the badly made photograph had about it an expressive authority that seemed to fit the subject better than the smooth, plastic description of the classical fine print. It was long assumed however that such pictures were invariably accidents - acts of God, by which news photographers and similar types were occasionally rewarded for their bravery and tenacity. The notion that such pictures represented areas of photographic potential that photographers of artistic ambitions might exploit was simply not entertained.

William Klein

This situation changed in the 1950's with the rapid increase in the sensitivity of new films, which allowed pictures to be made in almost no light at all. Suddenly the world was flooded with photographs that resembled the image of a badly adjusted television screen. Some of these pictures managed a kind of clarity that depended not on modeling but on drawing - not on the description of surfaces, but the description of shapes and line. Gradually some photographers came to understand and anticipate the behavior of their materials in the new circumstances, and to adjust their seeing accordingly, to grasp the content of the moment in terms of its broad and simple outlines.

William Klein

The pictures produced were especially useful to the magazines, which were meant to be flipped through rather than lived with, and in which a picture's first impact was more important than its staying power. It must be admitted that not many of the photographs of this genre were of great interest the second time around.

William Klein

The experiment, however, taught photography much about the basic and ancient issue of indication: the way in which an artist describes what he sees. And the most talented photographers involved - such as William Klein - extended our sense of what might be meant by a clear photograph.

from "Looking at Photographs" by John Szarkowski

William Klein / recommended books
William Klein, New York, 1954-1955

New edition of Klein's famous book "New York Is Good & Good For You (1956)" with both new lay out and content. Including photos never published before.

William Klein ABC

This astonishing book, selected and designed by Klein himself, offers a visual survey of his long and varied career. It includes his poetic street photography of New York, Moscow, Rome, Tokyo, and Paris; his exciting fashion photography; stills and posters from his bitingly satirical films; and his graphically powerful painted contact sheets.

William Klein: Rome

In 1956, a 28-year old William Klein arrived in Rome to assist Federico Fellini on his film Nights of Cabiria. Filming was delayed, and so Klein instead strolled about the city in the company of Fellini and other avant-garde Italian writers and artists who served as his guides. It was on these walks that Rome, a pioneering and brilliant visual diary of the city, was born. As Fellini said, "Rome is a movie, and Klein did it."

William Klein: Paris + Klein

In his signature color and black-and-white compositions, jostled to the brim with more information than a single camera lens was ever expected to take in, we find: men in the street, celebrities, demonstrations, fashion, the police, politics, races, the metro, soccer, death. . .The whole life of a capital seen through the lively, acidic, melancholic, humorous, irnoical, and moving eyes of William Klein.


Sixty years after his first book, William Klein takes on a new challenge: shoot Brooklyn in digital. This technique becomes a way for the master of the aesthetic of chaos to refresh his approach to the New York borough. "No rules, no limits, no holding back." Such is his motto. What is important is to capture the exuberance and impertinence of life. With these images, Klein creates a kaleidoscope of Brooklyn.

William Klein quotes
  • The New York book was a visual diary and it was also kind of personal newspaper. I wanted it to look like the news. I didn't relate to European photography. It was too poetic and anecdotal for me.... The kinetic quality of New York, the kids, dirt, madness --- I tried to find a photographic style that would come close to it. So I would be grainy and contrasted and black. I'd crop, blur, play with the negatives. I didn't see clean technique being right for New York. I could imagine my pictures lying in the gutter like the New York Daily News.

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