Paris + Klein

Photographies by William Klein

28 October to 5 December 2004

When the photographic book “New York” by William Klein (born in New York in 1928) appeared in 1956, it was immediately clear that here was a photographer who disregarded all of the rules of the trade. L. Fritz Gruber, spiritus rector of “photokina”, pronounced: “What appears to be decomposition is in fact a more intensive, up-to-date method of seeing and photographing than before.” By contrast, photo historian Helmut Gernsheim saw on the one hand “a dynamic movie style” and on the other “ugly scenes of everyday life like those that can be found in any big city.” Meanwhile International “street photography” orientated itself on Klein’s New York shots.

Klein followed this volume with photographic books on Rome (1958), Moscow and Tokyo (both in 1964, also in German). During this time he did fashion photography for “Vogue” until 1965, but above all he developed a passion for filmmaking. In the 1980s he returned to the field of photography. Klein at first hesitated to accept the offer made by Jean-Luc Monterosso, director of the Parisian “Maison Européenne de la Photographie”, to do a book about Paris: “In the end I said to myself: Why not?

Altogether I’ve lived here for forty years, and I really don’t know the city all that well. But how to go about the whole thing? There are two-thousand books about Paris. How could I do something new?”

So Klein photographed the city in a way that avoided the usual photo clichés and travel book sights. Paris aficionados be warned: “In the world of Klein there is no room for a young man and a girl sitting at bistro table, fingers tenderly entwined beside their coffee cups, no autumn leaves embracing their reflection in the waters of Versailles. Are you looking for berets and bicycles? You’re in the wrong place.” (Anthony Lane)

“Paris+Klein” was shown by the “Maison Européenne de la Photographie” for the first time in November 2002 on the occasion of the “Mois de la photo”.

Biographic data on William Klein

Born in New York in 1928 as the son of a Jewish clothing businessman from Hungary. Moved to Paris in 1947, studied with Fernand Léger and André Lhote. Invited by Alexander Liberman (art director of US edition of “Vogue”) to return to New York in 1954. Worked for eight months on a photographic diary of New York for which Klein could not find an American publisher. The book was published in 1956 in Paris, Rome and London under the title “Life Is Good & Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels”. It had a sensational effect, revolutionizing big city and street photography, and its influence on the younger generation of photographers can hardly be overestimated. This was followed by other photo volumes on Rome (1958), Moscow and Tokyo (both 1964, also in German). Klein worked for “Vogue” for ten years, until 1965, as a fashion photographer. Starting in 1958 (“Broadway by Light”) he made more than 20 films. The most famous were his portrait films of Cassius Clay / Mohammed Ali, his anti-war films (“Far from Vietnam”, 1967, together with Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker, Claude Lelouch and Joris Ivens; “Mr. Freedom”, 1967/68) and “Who Are You, Polly Magoo?” (1965/66), his satirical poke at the world of Haute Couture. In addition to ad clips and TV spots he returned to photography in the 1980s. First major retrospective in 1980 in the MOMA in New York, and 1983 in the Centre Georges Pompidou. Commission by the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, he did a photo portrait of Pais (exhibition “Paris + Klein” in the MEP on the occasion of the “Mois de la photo” 2002, travelling since then, moving in October from Tokyo to the Martin-Gropius-Bau). The “New York” book is republished in new form and in various languages in 1996.

Organizer: Museumspädagogischer Dienst MD Berlin in cooperation with the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
Supported by funds from the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin.
On the occasion of the “Month of Photography”.