William Klein (photographer)  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from William Klein)
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e



William Klein (1926 – 2022) was an American-born French photographer and filmmaker active in photojournalism, fine-art photography and fashion photography.

He is known for such photos as Broadway and 103rd Street, New York, 1954–1955.

Among his films are Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966), Mr. Freedom (1969) and The Model Couple (1977).


Life and work

Klein was born in New York City into an impoverished Jewish family. He graduated from high school early and enrolled at the City College of New York at the age of 14 to study sociology. He joined the U.S. Army during World War II and was stationed in Germany and later France, where he permanently settled after being discharged.

In 1948, Klein enrolled at the Sorbonne, and later studied with Fernand Léger. At the time, Klein was interested in abstract painting and sculpture. In 1952, he had two successful solo exhibitions in Milan and began a collaboration with the architect Angelo Mangiarotti. Klein also experimented with kinetic art, and it was at an exhibition of his kinetic sculptures that he met Alexander Liberman, the art director for Vogue.

He moved on to photography and achieved widespread fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue and for his photo essays on various cities. Despite having no formal training as a photographer, Klein won the Prix Nadar in 1957 for New York, a book of photographs taken during a brief return to his hometown in 1954. Klein's work was considered revolutionary for its "ambivalent and ironic approach to the world of fashion", its "uncompromising rejection of the then prevailing rules of photography" and for his extensive use of wide-angle and telephoto lenses, natural lighting and motion blur. The New York Times' Katherine Knorr writes that, along with Robert Frank, Klein is considered "among the fathers of street photography, one of those mixed compliments that classifies a man who is hard to classify."

Klein's most popular photographic works are Gun 1, New York (1955), The Holy family on bike (Rome, 1956), Cineposter (Tokyo, 1961), Vogue (fashion models in the streets of New York, Rome and Paris for Vogue magazine, 1963), Love on the Beat (Serge Gainsbourg album sleeve, 1984), Club Allegro Fortissimo (1990) and Autoportrait (a book of painted contact prints, 1995).


The world of fashion was the subject for the first feature film Klein directed in 1966, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, which, like his other two fiction features, Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple, is a satire.

He directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries, including the cinéma vérité documentary Grands soirs et petits matins, the 1964 documentary Cassius the Great, re-edited with new footage as Muhammed Ali, The Greatest in 1969. He produced over 250 television commercials. A long time tennis fan, in 1982 he directed The French, a documentary on the French Open tennis championship.

His work was sometimes openly critical of American society and foreign policy; the film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote that Mr. Freedom was "conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made."


Klein died in Paris on September 10, 2022, aged 96.


Documentary films

Feature films


  • New York. London: Photography Magazine, 1956.
  • Life is good and good for you in New York: Trance Witness Revels.
    • Life is good and good for you in New York: Trance Witness Revels. Éditions du Seuil, 1958.
    • New York 1954–55. Marval, 1995. New edition.
    • Life is Good & Good for You in New York Trance Witness Revels. Books on Books 5. New York: Errata Editions, 2010. Template:ISBN. Essays by Klein, Max Kozloff and Jeffrey Ladd.
    • Life is Good & Good for You in New York Trance Witness Revels. Books on Books 5. New York: Errata Editions, 2012.
  • Rome. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1958 (Petite Planète series). Template:ISBN.
  • Rome: The City and Its People.
    • Rome: The City and Its People. New York: The Viking Press and London: Vista Books, 1959.
    • Rome: The City and Its People. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1959.
  • Moscow. Crown, 1964. First edition.
  • Tokyo. Crown, 1964. First edition.
  • Mister Freedom. Korinsha Press, 1970. First edition.
  • Close up. Thames & Hudson, 1989.
  • Torino '90. Federico Motta Editore, 1990.
  • Mode in & out. Seuil, 1994. Template:ISBN.
  • William Klein Films. Paris: Marval/Maison Europeenne De La Photographie, 1998. First edition. Template:ISBN.
  • Paris + Klein. Germany: Edition Braus, 2002. Template:ISBN.
  • MMV Romani. Fendi-Contrasto, Centre Pompidou. Template:ISBN.
  • William Klein, rétrospective. Marval, 2005.
  • Roma + Klein. du Chêne, 2009.
  • William Klein: Black and Light, Early Abstracts, 1952 – 2015. HackelBury Fine Art, 2015. Template:ISBN.

John Galliano controversy

The photographer, who lives in France he was paid in 2007, 200,000 euros ($271,800) in damage for unauthorized use his work. In his March 28 decision, Judge Claude Vallet said John Galliano's advertisements too closely resembled Klein's hallmark "painted contacts" — oversized painted contact sheets streaked with stokes of vivid color.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "William Klein (photographer)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools