PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE MONTH: Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt passed away at the age of 95 in Manhattan in 2009. Born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, Levitt was known for her work capturing the the city she loved. She moved to Manhattan after dropping out of high school and got a job in the Bronx working in a darkroom.
In 1935, Levitt met Henri Cartier-Bresson and accompanied him on a few shoots. She also met Walker Evans and became great friends James Agee around this time. Levitt’s photographs documented her city. In the 1930’s and 1940’s Helen’s photos of the Lower East Side and Spanish Harlem street life were revealing and tender. Her images revealed everyday life as the street in those neighborhoods were their “living rooms.” Helen’s photos capture family life, friendships, arguments and the routine of life lived on the streets.
Helen turned to a movie camera and editing for awhile to support herself while making the documentary “In The Street” with Agee and Janince Loeb. She then returned to photography as she regarded it the truer challenge and was one of the first photographers to start shooting in color. Her photos were included in the inaugural exhibit of MOMA’s photography department and later on she held a solo show there.
Helen was fiercely independent and routinely refused interviews. She did not like accolades or speaking about her work. She famously said “Since I am inarticulate, I express myself with images.” She was adamant that her photographs do the talking for her. Please check this rare interview on NPR for more insight in Helen Levitt and her work.
Catherine Berclaz is the Co-Founder and Creative Director of Pablove Shutterbugs and an avid photographer. She spends her time between New York City and Los Angeles, California.
Photo copyright of The Estate of Helen Levitt