William Klein (photographer)
Klein at the Cinémathèque française in 2008
April 19, 1928 |
New York, New York, US
|Nationality||American / French|
|Education||City College of New York, La Sorbonne, studied with Fernand Léger|
|Known for||Photography, cinema, painting|
|Awards||Prix Nadar (1957), Prix Jean Vigo (1967), Hasselblad Award (1990), Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (1999), Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award, Sony World Photography Awards (2012)|
William Klein (born April 19, 1928) is an American-born French photographer and filmmaker noted for his ironic approach to both media and his extensive use of unusual photographic techniques in the context of photojournalism and fashion photography. He was ranked 25th on Professional Photographer's list of 100 most influential photographers.
Klein trained as a painter, studying under Fernand Léger and found early success with exhibitions of his work. However, he soon moved on to photography and achieved widespread fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue and for his photo essays on various cities. He has directed feature-length fiction films, numerous short and feature-length documentaries and has produced over 250 television commercials.
He has been awarded the Prix Nadar in 1957, the Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) in 1999, and the Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award at the Sony World Photography Awards in 2012.
Life and work
Klein was born in New York City into an impoverished Jewish family. He graduated from high school early and enrolled at the City College of New York at the age of 14 to study sociology. He joined the US Army and was stationed in Germany and later France, where he would permanently settle after being discharged.
In 1948, Klein enrolled at the Sorbonne, and later studied with Fernand Léger. At the time, Klein was interested in abstract painting and sculpture. In 1952, he had two successful solo exhibitions in Milan and began a collaboration with the architect Angelo Mangiarotti. Klein also experimented with kinetic art, and it was at an exhibition of his kinetic sculptures that he met Alexander Liberman, the art director for Vogue.
He moved on to photography and achieved widespread fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue and for his photo essays on various cities. Despite having no training as a photographer, Klein won the Prix Nadar in 1957 for New York, a book of photographs taken during a brief return to his hometown in 1954. Klein's work was considered revolutionary for its "ambivalent and ironic approach to the world of fashion", its "uncompromising rejection of the then prevailing rules of photography" and for his extensive use of wide-angle and telephoto lenses, natural lighting and motion blur. Klein is considered, along with Robert Frank, as among the fathers of street photography, one of those mixed compliments that classifies a man who is hard to classify.
The world of fashion would become the subject for the first feature film Klein directed in 1966, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, which, like his other two fiction features, Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple, is a satire. He has directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries, including the cinéma vérité documentary Grands soirs et petits matins, the 1964 documentary Cassius the Great, re-edited with new footage as Muhammed Ali, The Greatest in 1969. He has produced over 250 television commercials. A long time tennis fan, in 1982 he directed The French, a documentary on the French Open tennis championship at Roland-Garros.
His work has sometimes been openly critical of American society and foreign policy; the film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote that Mr. Freedom was "conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made." On French TV show Des mots de minuit, Klein defended the openly far-right and antisemitic comedian and political activist Dieudonné.
- 1957: Prix Nadar for New York.
- 1967: Prix Jean Vigo.
- 1990: Hasselblad Award.
- 1999: Centenary Medal and Honorary Fellowship (HonFRPS) from the Royal Photographic Society.
- 2012: Outstanding Contribution to Photography Award, Sony World Photography Awards.
Klein's work is held in the following public collection:
- "William Klein". Photography of the 20th Century. Masters of Photography. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Text by John Heilpern". William Klein: Photographs. Masters of Photography. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Professional Photographer Magazine". Top 100 Most influential photographers Century. Professional Photographer Magazine. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- "William Klein Biography". designboom. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- Knorr, Katherine (1996-10-26). "William Klein's Street Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-14.
- "Klein, William". Photography Encyclopedia. Masters of Photography. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- "Mr. Freedom". Chicago Reader. Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2010-01-06.
- Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Award Accessed 13 August 2012
- Collection Rijksmuseum
- Klein biography
- William Klein at the Internet Movie Database
- Klein at the Victoria and Albert Museum