Posts Tagged ‘Helen Levitt’

“Kids With Laundry” on a tenement block

August 16, 2012

Photographer Helen Levitt, who spent seven decades capturing private, tender moments on city streets, chronicles a group of kids improvising with a cart of laundry in 1972.

Levitt lived on East 13th Street until her death in 2009, and it’s certainly possible this photo depicts an East Village or Lower East Side block.

“Ms. Levitt is best known for deeply sympathetic yet unflinchingly gritty pictures of children,” a New York Times reviewer wrote in 2005. The old, lonely, and outcast were also frequent subjects.

The candid street photography of Helen Levitt

March 9, 2011

Born in Bensonhurst in 1913, Helen Levitt spent seven decades capturing images of poor and working-class New Yorkers going about life’s unheralded rituals—working, eating, and observing.

And in the case of children, playing. “Levitt’s photographs of Harlem and the Lower East Side, primarily from the late 1930s through mid-1940s, were among the first to expose the inner lives of children, worlds that had only recently surfaced in American art through the spread of psychoanalysis and surrealism,” wrote Richard B. Woodward in the Wall Street Journal in 2009, shortly after her death.

“Her boys and girls immerse themselves in their roles as gangster, diva, street-corner dandy, wise guy, or holy terror with utter conviction.”

In later decades, Levitt worked in color, creating perceptive and tender portraits of ordinary people against the backdrop of a city in decline.

Publicity shy and notorious for rarely giving interviews, she lived alone in a walkup near Union Square for almost 50 years, until she died at age 95.

Her street-theater photos of New York caught off guard have been collected in many books, including the magical Slide Show, published in 2005.