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Helen Levitt

Text from Wikipedia

Levitt, Helen
American, 1913-2009

Helen Levitt was an American documentary photographer.

Levitt grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Dropping out of school, she taught herself photography while working for a commercial photographer. While teaching some classes in art to children in 1937, Levitt became intrigued with the transitory chalk drawings that were part of the New York children's street culture of the time. She purchased a Leica camera and began to photograph these works as well as the children who made them. The resulting photographs appeared, to great acclaim, in 1987 as In The Street: chalk drawings and messages, New York City 19381948. Named as one of the "100 best photo-books", first-editions are now highly collectable.

She studied with Walker Evans during 1938 and 1939. In 1943 Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art curated her first solo exhibition, after which she began to find press work as a documentary photographer. In the early 1950s she briefly became a film director, working with James Agee. In 1959 and 1960, she received two Guggenheim Foundation grants to take colour photographs on the streets of New York but much of this work was stolen in a burglary. The remaining photos, and others taken in the following years, can be seen in the book Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt (May 2005). Her first major book was A Way of Seeing (1965). In 1976 she was a Photography Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has remained active as a photographer for nearly 70 years and still lives in New York City. New York's "visual poet laureate" is notoriously private and publicity shy.


 


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