Legendary Street Photographers – William Klein

by Marcus D. Niski

William Klein is a legendary American Fashion and Street Photographer based in Paris who is regarded amongst the great pioneers of genre of the Street Photography.

Renowned for his framing and exceptional compositions, his empathy with his subjects, and his up-close approach to photographing subjects on the street, Klein’s career has spanned throughout the ’50s to the present day, including stints as a Vogue fashion photographer. His extraordinary signature fashion work often incorporated his models amongst busy and sometimes chaotic street scenes that included locational shoots in New York, Paris and Rome.

Kleins’ provocative approach and his exceptional natural rapport with his models lead to the creation of iconic images that challenged the conventional boundaries of photography at the time and introduced new techniques into the field including the use of telephoto lenses to capture his subjects from a distance so as to create a more free and ‘anonymous’ effect in his style of composition.

In October 2012, The Tate Modern presented an important retrospective dedicated to both William Klein and Daido Moriyama that featured Klein’s re-interpretations of his own work in the form of hand-painted overlays of some of his iconic contact sheet images that were scaled-up to large and very striking wall-mounted images.

The film below captures Klein’s charming and fiercely iconoclastic personality at interview with a fellow legend in the form of documentary film maker Alan Yentob, known for his groundbreaking early BBC portrait of David Bowie entitled Cracked Actor.

The Many Lives of William Klein – Alan Yentob

Marcus D. Niski, July 2021

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