The Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris has compiled an appropriately over-the-top retrospective of William Klein’s art — photography, films, posters, fashion, graphic design, sculpture, books and more. It’s loud, large, jam-packed, garish and utterly perfect in conveying the sense of frenzy and violence and the defiant outsider stance that makes Klein’s work so gutsy and full of impact.
Klein’s first photo book, New York, New York, established
him as a force to be reckoned with in 1956, two years before Robert Frank’s
The Americans created a similar stir. He had designed the entire
book himself. Klein’s work was rejected by American publishers,
and was published in Paris. He still lives and works as an American in
Paris to this day.
About his photography, Klein said, “I used the wide-angle lens as
a normal lens. I had no philosophy about it. When I looked in the viewfinder
and realized I could see all the contradictions and confusion that was
there with the wide-angle — that was what was great…If I'd
had a Rolleiflex with different lenses, I wouldn't have cropped that much.
I had no compunction about cropping, because I did my own layouts…[And]
I'd use anything in printing. Throw cyanide, white out over things. I
approached photography a little bit like a painter would play with a lithograph,
fooling around, pouring milk, tea, anything on it. It was the sort of
thing that anybody with any sort of strict, classic photographic training
would have qualms about. But I had no qualms at all about doing things
with photography. First of all, I had no knowledge of it, and I couldn't
care less, because I thought the whole photographic world was alien.”
An exhibition of his early work was held at the Museum of Modern Art,
New York, in 1980-1981, at which time John Szarkowski wrote: "Klein's
photographs of twenty years ago were perhaps the most uncompromising of
their time. They were the boldest and superficially the most scrofulous
— the most distanced from the accepted standards of formal quality
.... They really extend what life can look like in pictures. They enlarge
A beautifully printed, large-format Retrospective book accompanies the
current exhibition, but it, like many of Klein’s books, is available
only in a French version. And like many retrospective works, it pales
in comparison to the early original photo books Klein made: New York,
Rome, Moscow and Tokyo.
— Jim Casper
William Klein: Rétrospective
by William Klein
With Quentin Bajac, Alain Sayag, Bruno Racine, Alfred Pacquement
Paperback, 300 pages
Buy on Amazon
Book reviewWilliam Klein RetrospectiveAn exhibition in Paris, and a new book, including some pithy quotes from the original bad boy of photography himself, and John Szarkowski.View Images
William Klein Retrospective
An exhibition in Paris, and a new book, including some pithy quotes from the original bad boy of photography himself, and John Szarkowski.View Images
William Klein Retrospective
An exhibition in Paris, and a new book, including some pithy quotes from the original bad boy of photography himself, and John Szarkowski.
Couverture du livre rétrospective de l’exposition, Editions Marval et Centre Pompidou, © William Klein
4 têtes, New York 1955, © William Klein
Sainte famille à moto, Rome 1956, © William Klein
Cineposter, Tokyo 1961, © William Klein
Serge Gainsbourg (pour la pochette «Love On The Beat», 1984, © William Klein
Club Allegro Fortissimo, contact peint, Paris 1990, © William Klein
Visages blancs + l'Opéra, Paris 1963 (Photo pour Vogue) © William Klein
Existence, contact peint, Paris 2002, © William Klein
Montage d’affiches de 9 films de William Klein, © William Klein
Trending this Week
Fire of Hatred
In Iran, some vengeful lovers, spurned suitors or aggrieved family members turn to the awful, violent act of acid-throwing to exact revenge. This portrait series gives a platform for the victims to speak out.
In My Backyard: Iceland
Set against the grand, wild majesty of the eastern Icelandic landscape, these searching self-portraits are one woman’s attempts to connect with herself and forge a basic understanding with her environment.
A new, larger-than-life book of less-than-glamorous street portraits proves to be challenging. How would you describe these portraits by Gilden? Are these mean-spirited, or simply just real?
Inked: Why I Love Tattoos
“I got my first tattoo at home. Just like that, on the sofa. I keep on going because there are so many good tattooists out there. It’s like collecting art. It’s an honor to wear their work.” Shifting from trashy to trendy, tattoos make the...
Rolling Stone to Christopher Street: 30 Years of Portraits
Rolling Stone’s former chief photographer Mark Seliger discusses his current series, “On Christopher Street,” while offering invaluable advice for aspiring portrait photographers.
Tokyo Street Portraits
These intimate, up-close portraits of people in the streets of Tokyo speak for themselves. We love the direct gaze, the honesty and humanity of these photographs.