A living legend of modern photography, William Klein will be showcasing his first major exhibition in Brussels at Botanique this winter.
Also a painter and filmmaker, this American in Paris marked a profound revolution in the world of photography with his first book, New York, published in 1956.
Breaking away from the era’s ideal of photographic objectivity, William Klein advocated a subjective and fragmented approach to reality. Rugged framing, deliberate blurring, pronounced grain and distortion constitute the specificity of his instinctive and rough language. At first decried and regarded as vulgar, his anti-mainstream style caught on and even managed to establish itself in the world of fashion. In fact, he worked for the magazine Vogue for more than ten years, enjoying their support from his very beginnings and working with them to shake up the genre.
Considered one of the founding fathers of street photography, this outsider has seen many of his shots elevated to the status of icons. Think of that child brandishing a gun, the young woman challenging the lens in Moscow, or the women posing in the baths in Paris. These images and many more have travelled the globe and inspired generations of photographers.
The exhibition at Botanique offers a retrospective view of his work through the cities he has immortalised. After New York, where he revisits the neighbourhoods of his childhood, comes Rome in 1956, alongside Fellini, then Moscow and Tokyo in 1961, where he captures the effervescence of modern life. Just like Paris, his adopted city since 1947, each one of these cities gives rise to a book. In their editorial lay-out, he also upends classic practices by adopting an almost cinematographic rhythm in the series of images.
Mixed in with his contrasting black and white shots, there are also his painted contact prints, works which he reconnects with his pictorial practices that were started in Fernand Léger’s workshop in the 1950s and in which he uses movement and colour to revisit the entirety of his photographic work.
William Klein has been included in numerous exhibitions of international importance, such as at the MoMA, New York (1980-81), the Pompidou Centre in Paris (in 1982 and in 2005), the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris (2002), at the Tate Modern in London (with Daido Moriyama in 2011) and at Foam in Amsterdam (2013).
As a filmmaker, he has directed many films including Broadway by Light (1959), fictional films like Qui êtes-vous Polly Magoo (1966) and Mister Freedom (1969), as well as the documentary on Muhammad Ali The Greatest (1964-74).
One of the most groundbreaking street photographers of the 20th century is on show at Botanique until 5th February.
More info on the exhibition – Botanique.