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I never had a ‘project’. I would go out and shoot, follow my eyes—what they noticed, I tried to capture with my camera, for others to see.”
— Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt (1913–2009) is among the foremost practitioners in the field of street photography. It was in the 1930s that Levitt started photographing street life in underprivileged New York neighbourhoods such as East Harlem, the Bronx and the Lower East Side. With an unsentimental pictorial language, she documented the graffiti on the brick walls, people sitting outside on stoops or children playing in the streets. Contrary to the intention of traditional photo journalism to document social injustice for political purpose, she considered photography a form of artistic expression allowing her to merge everyday life with an understanding of personal aesthetic. With an eye for comical details, she took pictures of people in dynamic poses thereby rendering everyday scenes into a theatrical spectacle.
The upcoming exhibition retrospective of Levitt’s photographic career will present over 130 photographs, many of which are shown for the first time in the UK. Bringing together her street photography, the clandestinely shot portraits of New York subway passengers in 1938, as well as her early colour work and films, the exhibition presents a uniquely nuanced overview of Levitt’s work and traces her development to become one of the ‘most celebrated and least known photographer of her time’.
The exhibition is curated by Dr.Walter Moser in collaboration with Anna Dannemann.
Co-produced by The Albertina Museum, Vienna, and The Photographers’ Gallery, London.