Helen Levitt, 1913-2009
Helen Levitt has passed at the age of 95. Born in Bensonhurst, she dropped out of high school and went to work as a photographer's assistant. She sought out great artists like Cartier-Bresson and Luis Bunuel, and made friends with James Agee. Street scenes were her metier and she was especially celebrated for her pictures of children, some of which are very cheerful, but in many of which the children are very serious, even, despite the childishness of their pursuits, dignified. She had a solo show at MOMA when she was 30. She left, then returned to photography, and in her 60s and 70s was still taking pictures of poor people in poor neighborhoods fixing their cars, lounging in windows, and sometimes playing in the streets. She lived in a Village walkup, played poker, and kept a cat named Binky. Some photos here and here, and nice slide shows of some of her later work here and here. NPR did an interview with her when she was 88, in which she talked about how the late 30s was a great time for street photography in Spanish Harlem because "that was before television." Also, "If it were easy to talk about, I'd be a writer."