Monday, March 30, 2009

RIP Helen Levitt


© Estate of Helen Levitt

One of the greats has left us. Known for her sensitive and incredible looks into the lives of ordinary people, she was a great influence on all photographers and the genre of portraits in particular. The world was better for her involvement in it, a little sadder for her passing. Read the whole thing, please.
Helen Levitt, Who Captured New York Street Life, Dies at 95 - Obituary (Obit) - NYTimes.com:
"In Ms. Levitt’s best-known picture, three properly dressed children prepare to go trick-or-treating on Halloween 1939. Standing on the stoop outside their house, they are in almost metaphorical stages of readiness. The girl on the top step is putting on her mask; a boy near her, his mask in place, takes a graceful step down, while another boy, also masked, lounges on a lower step, coolly surveying the world.

“At the peak of Helen’s form,” John Szarkowski, former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, once said, “there was no one better.”

The late 1930s and early ’40s, when Ms. Levitt created an astonishing body of work, was a time when many noted photographers produced stark images to inspire social change. Ms. Levitt also took her camera to the city’s poorer neighborhoods, like Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side, where people treated their streets as their living rooms and where she showed an unerring instinct for a street drama’s perfect pitch. 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.”"

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