Fleeting moments of lyricism, mystery, and quiet drama. Helen Levitt, New York photographer

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Helen Levitt.

Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt. Born on August 31, 1913 in Brooklyn, NY to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents and passed away on March 29, 2009, in her hometown. American photographer best known for her iconic New York street photography.

From a very young age, Helen Levitt had had a great passion for the artistic world, until, at the age of eighteen, she began working in the photography workshop of a friend of her mother, Jay Florian Mitchell. Although she did not earn much money in his first years as a helper, she did save enough to buy what would be her first camera.

Inspired by earlier masters such as Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson, she took her 35-milimeter camera to the daily life of New York streets, especially those that she herself knew, located in the neighborhoods of the Bronx, intimately capturing the daily activities of women, children, and minority communities.

In 1939, her works were included in the inaugural exhibition of The Museum of Modern Art’s photography department, where her 1939 image of children trick-or-treating received especially high praise. Levitt went on to receive two consecutive Guggenheim Fellowships in 1959 and 1960, and today, her work can be found in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others. Levitt died on March 29, 2009 in New York, NY at the age of 95.

Most of her work was black and white photography, however, she also had the opportunity to take color snapshots. On the other hand, her eagerness to know led her to work on film projects, coinciding with the Spanish film director Luis Buñuel. Levitt’s talent for the medium proved to be extraordinary: The New York Times described her images as “fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery, and quiet drama.”

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