Helen Levitt’s street life photography

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When I started taking pictures, I first took to the streets to get inspiration. This included looking at the work of street photographers. I had always been drawn to the most dramatic images of Diane Arbus, Brassaï, Weegee. They all held the camera theatrically, as far as I’m concerned, and I loved it.

After a while I ran into Helen Levitt. His work is simple and lively. In many ways, she is the Cassavetes of street photography. I feel a deep affinity for his subjects; tenderness in its community documentation.

The pure energy of his photographs makes me nostalgic for a time I have never lived in and people I have never met. His images stir my imagination with my own memories of being in places like this, knowing people who are so much themselves that you can’t help but want to be around them to see what they’re doing. else. You can feel their attitude come off the paper.

Levitt must have been determined to document an era she knew to be unique and people who felt special to her. I feel a strong sense of love in his work which makes him unforgettable and shows us that there is more to life than material things and that, my friends, it is the soul that I am talking about!

New York, 1971 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

New York, 1938 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

I wonder how Levitt grabbed this moment, if she didn’t organize it. Did she hang out here for hours before this happened? But the most important thing is the courage that little boy had to go up there, to realize that he couldn’t come down!

New York, 1976 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

New York, 1988 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

This photo has been part of my inspiration file for over a decade. It says a lot about how this family feels about each other in one setting.

New York, 1959 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

New York, 1938 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy of Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

The confidence of this long stride is so endearing to me. I’m not sure if he knew how ridiculously big his stride was, but that makes for a picture I’ll never forget.

New York, 1940 © Helen Levitt / Film Documents LLC Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

These boys have so much attitude that I want to know what they’ve been up to with their days. They remind me of children that my son would find fascinating and that he absolutely wants to reproduce.

American artist Alex Prager creates elaborate scenes inspired by Hollywood cinema, experimental films, pop culture and street photography. His work has been exhibited around the world. “Helen Levitt: In the street”Is on display at the Photographers’ Gallery, London, until February 13

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