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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William Klein

Dates:  1928, 19 April -
Born:  US, NY, New York
 
  
American photographer and filmmaker - for a period of 15 years from 1965 onwards he abandoned photography and was a prize-winning filmmaker.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William Klein
Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum (London, UK)

 
  
In just three months William Klein produced one of the most renowned books of the 1950's, Life is Good and Good for You in New York: Trance - Witness - Revels. This was intended, he said, "as a monster big-city Daily Bugle with its scandals and scoops that you’d find blowing in the streets at three in the morning." Klein had been a student of the painter Fernand Leger, whose advice had been to "get out of the studio into the streets...to be monumental." Klein’s work is monumental street art, far removed from the mainstream documentary style of the fifties. In 1958 Klein turned to film-making, only returning to photography in 1980. 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.
 
  

Biography provided by Focal Press 
  
Klein, an ex-patriot American fashion photographer, filmmaker, designer, and painter has made Paris his home. He enlarged the syntax of photography by courting accident, blur, contrast, distortion, cockeyed framing, graininess, and movement. Rebelled against the 1950s notions of the decisive moment, which included not intervening into a scene, making good compositions, and producing normal looking prints. His images are not those of a detached observer but those of a provocateur. Klein referred to his Life is Good for You in New York — William Klein Trance Witness Revels (1956) as "a crash course in what was not to be done in photography." His other photographic books of cities — Rome (1958–1959), Moscow, and Tokyo (both 1964) — are catalogs of irreverent "mistakes," revolving around aggression. The dynamic and unconventional framing and printing techniques present cities as théâtre noir, emphasizing a sense of anarchy, chaos, and dread of urban life that most people wished to ignore. 
  
(Author: Robert Hirsch - Independent scholar and writer) 
  
Michael Peres (Editor-in-Chief), 2007, Focal Encyclopedia of Photography, 4th edition, (Focal Press) [ISBN-10: 0240807405, ISBN-13: 978-0240807409] 
(Used with permission) 
  

Further research

 
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Paul Maurer
William Klein 
1979, December
 
  
Family history 
  
If you are related to this photographer and interested in tracking down your extended family we can place a note here for you to help. It is free and you would be amazed who gets in touch. 
  
alan@luminous-lint.com
 
  
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Visual indexes

 
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Internet biographies

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Wikipedia has a biography of this photographer.Show on this siteGo to website
Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online (www.groveart.com) has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
Show on this siteGo to website
 

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

 
• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
  
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.214 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
  
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.282-283 
  
• Evans, Martin Marix (Executive ed.) 1995 Contemporary Photographers [Third Edition] (St. James Press - An International Thomson Publishing Company) [Expensive reference work but highly informative.] 
  
• International Center of Photography 1999 Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection (New York: A Bulfinch Press Book) p.220 [Includes a well written short biography on William Klein with example plate(s) earlier in book.] 
  
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on William Klein.] 
  
 

Useful printed stuff

If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.

 
• Gruber, Renate and L. Fritz Gruber 1982 The Imaginary Photo Museum (New York: Harmony Books) p.252 
  
• Szarkowski, John 1973 Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art) p.180 [Analyzes a single photograph by William Klein.] 
  
 
  
 
  
 
  
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