Helen Levitt-Street Photography

We have been asked to do some research into a photographer, so I chose Helen Levitt as I didn’t know much about her.  After googling her I had in fact seen a number of her images and had enjoyed them.  Below are my notes as outlined by the coursework:

Levitt did her early work in black and white and later she switched to color and the difference is quite striking.  The black and white images lend a romantic, timeless and distant feel to the work. It also makes for a very ‘clean’ image.  I admit I have found myself converting color to black and white for these very reasons but it is usually when the color photograph isn’t very strong.  Her color images makes you feel as if you were there.  They are very human and realistic and raw in a sense.

Levitt doesn’t seem to have ever had the sense of surrealism that Cartier had as her images really do seem to capture real life as she saw it.  Lots of kids, old people on stoops, etc.

I am not quite sure about the third bullet point where we are asked to comment on the use of irony and how it is used to comment on British or American values.  I think that Parr’s works does this really well.  As an American at least, I had a view of the English that was more sophisticated tan what Parr highlights in his work.  One image I think is the shot where he gets the lady and her kids sunbathing in an empty car lot that is actually near to water.

As far as irony in Levitt’s images, I don’t really see it.  What I do see is her view of life as she encountered it and it is what it is.  Possibly the image of the man standing in his underwear on a busy NY street, holding a cane as the hot fog vendor looks on is an ironic comment on American values…city life, freedom of expression, street food.


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