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Street Smarts: Photographs by William Klein

February 22–July 13, 2003

Photographer, filmmaker, and graphic designer William Klein created a sensation in the mid-1950s with his groundbreaking approach to photography. Originally from New York, Klein (b. 1928) settled in Paris in 1947 after serving in the U.S. Army. There he decided to become an artist and studied painting with Fernand Lèger, whose work reflected his belief that art should be connected to the contemporary world. Klein began using the camera to achieve this end and decided to document the street life of his native city.

Returning to New York in 1954, Klein was stimulated by the raw vitality of its postwar urban culture. Inspired by tabloid journalism, Klein was drawn to the brutal and seamy aspects of modern life. His New York photographs were daring in their open rejection of standards of beauty. Klein extended his technical experimentation—harsh flash, wide-angle shots, blurring, and grainy printing—to create gritty, chaotic pictures in other major cities in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This installation includes images from his extensive series on New York, Rome, Moscow, and Tokyo, as well as pictures made in Beirut, London, Madrid, and Paris.

Main Building


Katherine Ware, Curator of Photographs, the Alfred Stieglitz Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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