Helen Levitt (1913–2009) numbers among the foremost exponents of street photography. It was in the 1930s that this passionate observer and chronicler of New York street life first began taking pictures of the inhabitants of poorer neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side, the Bronx, and Harlem. And with her eye for the surreal and for ironic details, she was to spend many further decades immortalizing everyday people in dynamic compositions: children at play, passersby striking a pose, couples conversing. Levitt’s unsentimental pictorial language gives rise to a humorous and theatrical pageant situated beyond any moral or social documentary clichés.
The ALBERTINA is featuring this American photographer in a retrospective that brings together around 130 of her iconic works. These range from her early, surrealism-influenced photographs of chalk drawings to her 1941 photos from Mexico and the clandestinely shot portraits of New York subway passengers that Walker Evans encouraged her to do in 1938.