An essential item for everyone with an interest in photography, William Klein’s Life is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels was reissued by New York publishing house Errata Editions. With 160 pages and 120 duotone illustrations, the book will be released on February 28th, more than half a century after its first publishing, in 1956.
William Klein was born in 1928 into a poor Jewish family in New York City. Klein studied Sociology, joined the U.S. Army and, upon discharge, decided to settle in France. Taught by artist Fernand Léger, Klein became a fairly successful painter before switching his craft to photography, albeit having no formal training. The artist achieved far-reaching fame for his fashion photography and photojournalism work, often characterized by the use of natural lightning and equipment that was rarely used in fashion photography, such as wide-angle and telephoto lenses.
Broadway and 103rd St., New York (1955) ( from ... This picture is part of a collection which marked an important turning point in the history of photography in the second half of the 20th century. This collection was published in 1956 under the title “New York”. WILLIAM KLEIN, who at the time was living and working in Paris, returned to the city where he was born and with this collection about its street life turned the photographic genre on its head. Using a high-speed and therefore grainier film he introduced picture distortion and blurring without any hesitation. His compositions, complex and apparently without order, set them apart from existing canons. It resulted in an uncomfortable and crude photography that probably wanted to reflect the sensations that the city and the American way of life produced in him. A photography full of rage and a new way to express itself. The author himself commented with fine irony on his own technique, saying that it was “a crash course in what not to do in photography”. It’s rather curious that an artist trained in France, where there were so many good photographers at that time was so far from the perfectionism that characterised the French photographic style.
Klein’s new esthetic had a marked influence on the contemporary photographic canons. When today I see photographs by home grown talents such as Kim Manresa o Txema Salvans, I feel Klein’s spirit is present. Curiously, following the earthquake he created, Klein practically disappeared from the world of photography and dedicated himself to cinema. As we say “he threw the stone and ran away”. The truth is that he threw it very far.
Needless to say this image has an unusually direct impact, like a photographic punch in the face. A young man, in fact a boy,is wandering the streets of the city. And, as is clear, he’s playing with a revolver, as you might expect in a society where fire arms constitute an essential reference point. He squares up to the photographer, arms the gun at him and shouts a threat at him:- Hands up or you’re a dead man! That doesn’t scare the photographer who points the camera and shoots without a second thought, as if it were a western showdown. No time to aim, no time to focus. Probably he was using a wide angle that gave him enough depth of field. Not enough of course to avoid the fist and gun ending up totally blurred. But that’s the point. To get a perfectly recognisable image but, thanks to its composition, a more aggressive and disturbing result. The boy’s face full of rage, violent even at play also reflects his own personality. His playmate, perhaps a younger brother, is watching him with total admiration; respect for an older peer, already able to fight with a gun in his hand. A real lesson about violence learned in childhood...)
Klein’s rejection of standard technical rules is quite obvious in his artistic achievements, distinguished by atypical focal points, motion blurs and high contrast. Klein also took his openly critical approach – towards media, fashion, excesses, North-American society and foreign policy) – to filmmaking, having produced over 250 commercials and having directed numerous films, from short films to feature-length fiction and documentary work. His most well-known film, besides the caustic anti-American fiction Mr. Freedom (1969), is Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo?, 1966), an abrasive satire of the fashion industry, starring Dorothy McGowan as supermodel Polly Maggoo. Lees verder ... & zie ook ...
Life is Good & Good for You in New York was reissued in its entirety, with the bonus essay William Klein and the Radioactive Fifties, by American Art historian Max Kozloff. The photobook captures Klein’s description of New York as “the world capital of anguish”, and is a great example of the artist’s style and vision – which he claims to be conceived by “one American eye and one European eye”.
Klein’s iconic photobook can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com. A limited edition set is already available at Errata Editions’ shop; the set features Life is Good & Good for You in New York and three other books (Yutaka Takanashi’s Toshi-e, David Goldblatt’s In Boksburg and Koen Wessing’s Chili September 1973), with a reproduction tipped into the cloth cover of each book.
Hat + 5 Roses, Paris (Vogue), 1956