William Klein; Street Photographer

William Klein; Street Photographer


Carlo Traina

“Become an active participant of the scene. Interact with the people, hear their conversations, and as a rule of thumb be close enough to see the colors of their eyes.”


William Klein was born in New York in 1928 from Jewish parents originally from Hungary. After a stint in France till his late teens, in 1954 he came back to New York and realized a photographic book on his city. While shooting photos Klein felt free from any academic restraint, both technical and practical: “I approached New York like a fake anthropologist,” Klein says, “treating New Yorkers like Zulus.” “..The rawest snapshot, the zero degree of photography”. Klein presented an aspect of New York that most of the American citizens were not used to see: he took pictures of the rawest of the Big Apple, showing her aggressive and vulgar side. The Americans found those images repulsive, and even the famous magazine “Vogue”, with which Klein started working for the fashion business, was quite upset by the vision of the New York of the artist. But the success was behind the corner: his book won the Nadar Price and became famous all over the world. New books would follow dedicated to big cities: Rome (1959), Moscow (1961), Tokyo (1962), all of them characterized by raw, grainy, swirling, dynamic images.

What I took from this photographer were;

First, he decided to research what would be the best camera and lens to use for street photography. After and exhaustive search he decided that he could not afford the camera that he wanted and really that did not matter as almost any camera would be suitable.

Second, he seems to be more interactive with subjects than Bruce Gilden including talking about the camera and bringing it into the discussion. I like this as I do that with my computer during my consultations where I tell the patient that “We need to dive into the internet to look at your blood results, is that OK with your? This strikes me as a more modern way of doing photography.

Third, his images sometimes have quite bit of blur in them or are not in focus; this is intentional as he says “Life is sometimes blurry.”

Fourth, he is using a wide angle zoom, and I think I need to do this as using a 50mm lens which I started with is not wide enough to take in the scene, and does not allow me to get close enough if that is what I want.