After briefly studying painting, William Klein (1926-2022) came into contact with photography whilst working for an architect as a young artist. He had few preconceived notions about photographic practice and, using all the tools of a photographer - composition, exposure and focus - with a fierce confidence, proceeded to create a unique visual language that made an asset out of the accident.
"Having lived in France for several years, I thought I had one eye that was European and one that was a street-smart New Yorker."
- William Klein
His photographs; often blurred or out of focus, his use of high-contrast prints, high-grain film and wide angles, shocked the established order of the photography world. Uncompromising in his vision and technique, it was this raw approach that served Klein well to capture his subjects with an honesty that truly echoed the diversity of moods, people and situations so present in life. Klein’s New York series of street scenes and portraits resulting in the 1956 publication Life Is Good For You In New York, were defined by his unconventional style. A French publisher eventually accepted the project after Klein’s then employer Vogue deemed the images too vulgar, and the work remained untouched by any American publisher until 1995.
Despite initial outrage at the methods of William Klein, his work continued to progress in style, reputation and across several mediums including filmmaking, graphic design and fashion photography. His influence can be seen in the work of other artists such as Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama and his work has earned him several solo and retrospective exhibitions throughout the world in venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and Tate Modern, London. He has won several awards across his career, including the Prix Nadar in 1957 for Life Is Good For You In New York, the Royal Photographic Society’s Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship in 1999 and the Sony World Photography Award for Outstanding Contribution to Photography in 2012.