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William Klein

Text from The Photography Encyclopedia

Klein, William
American, 1928-

Klein,William, American photographer, painter, and filmmaker

Better known in Europe and his adopted home town of Paris than in his native United States, Klein is accomplished in three distinctly different media. Born in New York, he served in the military with the U.S. Army. He was discharged from the service in Paris and remained there to study painting with Fernand Leger. He had his first exhibition at the age of 23. His work, though, retains a keen American sensibility.

While photographing art work in Milan, he became interested in the possibilities of abstract photography and published a book of abstract photos. He achieved recognition on the photography scene with the publication of New York, a photographic journal of his impressions there in the mid 1950s. The book won the Prix Nadar and provoked intense reaction, both pro and con. He spent the next ten years under contract to Vogue, establishing a reputation as a revolutionary and talented fashion lensman. In 196S, he moved to films, directing and often producing and writing them. Most received more attention overseas than in the United States, particularly Muhammad Ali: The Greatest, The Little Richard Story, and Who Are You, Polly Magoo?

Since 1972, Klein has produced more than 250 TV commercials mainly aired in Europe for such clients as Citroen and Fiat, and he has continued to produce photo books. Close Up and In and Out of Focus secured his reputation, as did a 1981 Museum of Modern Art retrospective of his 1950s work. Klein was named one of the 30 most important photographers in the history of the medium by the International Jury at Photokina in 1963. He has produced several books of his photographs and has exhibited in one man shows in London, Paris, and New York. His work is owned by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.


 


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