William Klein was born on April 19, 1928 in New York City to a poor family of Jewish immigrants. Growing up, he experienced anti-semitism and estrangement from his peers. He spent a great deal of his time at the Museum of Modern Art. At the age of 18, he joined the U.S. Army and worked as a radio operator in Germany and France. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris. While in France, he studied with Fernand Leger, who taught him to rebel against the standards of art—an attitude that seems to have influenced Klein's photography. Klein eventually married Jeanne Florin and has remained in France ever since.
Klein experimented with several different media: painting (his first love), photography (his most constant), a combination of the two (his painted contact sheets are my personal favorite), sculpture, and good deal of film.
Klein is famous for his projects that focus on a city from the perspective of an outsider. He explored Paris from that vantage point, and then, after six years abroad, New York.
Vogue took fashion photography in new directions. He broke out of the standard studio environment and into the streets.
Club Allegro Fortissimo, Paris, 1990 via this educational post.Klein is most famous for his negative contact sheets that have been over-painted with bright reds and yellows. While most photographers marked up contact sheets to weed through photos in and select which negatives to print, Klein's contact sheets are in themselves the final product.
Klein has received numerous awards for his photography including the Hasselblad Award and the Centenary Medal from the Royal Photographic Society.
Klein was once labeled as the “anti-photographer’s photographer”. One look at his photos and it is easy to see why. His photos are usually over-exposed, out of focus, and extremely grainy. But Klein’s rejection of many photographic standards of "good photography" contribute to his unique and thoughtful style. He explores wide and oblique angles that give a sense that the viewer is a part of the scene. He experiments with long exposures to introduce blur. Overall, Klein’s style rejects artistic norms in favor of documentary grit.
Inspiration for you
Klein approaches his subjects from his own unique vantage point, and uses whatever techniques (or some would say "lack" of technique) best express that. Klein's photos never propagate postcard-ready mythologies about the "City of Light." As foreigners abroad, you may feel compelled to capture the best possible images of the famous sights, and let's face it, that's part of why we're here. But the more you can put your own perspective and opinions into a photo and the less you worry about technical perfection, the more you will be able to make something memorable.
Get out there with your camera and photograph Paris from your viewpoint. You don't even have to worry about perfect technique. How hard is that? The hard part will probably come after you've taken some photos. Go through your work and choose the one photo that best expresses your initial take on Paris. Once you have identified the photo you want to post (and yes, you must choose only ONE this week), write thoughtful text to accompany it and post your results here on the blog. I will grade you based on both your photo and the text. As I explained back in August, you should post the image in a large enough size (like the last photo in this post) that we can appreciate it. Finally, I expect you to read your classmates' posts and give meaningful feedback. You don't have to read and comment on every single one each time, but if I don't see thoughtful commentary/reactions to at least one third of the posts, I will lower your grade.
All posts due by midnight (Paris time, not Utah) Saturday. Read and comment on others' posts before class on Tuesday.
Oh, and don't forget to have fun. You're in Paris and your homework is to take pictures of Paris. Your friends at home are green with envy.