Reviews: William Klein, the photographer at close range

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Le photographe américain William Klein à Thessalonique en Grèce, le 22 novembre 2007 © Sakis MitroLidis The American photographer William Klein in Thessaloniki in Greece, on November 22, 2007

the American photographer William Klein, who died on Saturday at the age of 96 in Paris, revolutionized Fashion photography and urban photography, with "punch" images reflecting the feverishness and violence of cities, during a long career devoted to cinema.

Photographer but also a painter, documentary maker and graphic designer, William Klein is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. He died as a retrospective exhibition of his work at the International Center of Photography in New York was ended.

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Inspired by the raw aesthetics of the reporting and the sensationalist style of the tabloids, William Klein jostled the codes of street photography, but also of fashion, by being one of the first to bring out the models of the studios.

Decadrages, exacerbated contrast are there in his work, mainly in black and white, where young boys brandish weapons at close range and where scowl faces are displayed in very close-up, sometimes blurred.

"William Klein photographed like a boxer", for Alain Génestar, director of the specialized review and the Polka gallery.

Born April 19, 1926 in New York in an Orthodox Jewish family, the young American discovered Europe by doing his military service and settled in France after his meeting with the model and artist Jeanne Florin, with whom he will share his life until his disappearance in 2005.

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Le photographe américain William Klein le 13 octobre 2006 à Clichy-sous-Bois, près de Paris, venu prendre des photos lors de l'inauguration d'une exposition © Joël Saget The American photographer William Klein on October 13, 2006 in Clichy-sous-Bois, near Paris, who came to take photos during the inauguration of an exhibition " Clichy without cliché "

- New York Underground -

At the time, he devoted himself to painting, after having studied with Fernand Léger, and imagines an architect time.

The click occurs when he wins a rolleiflex in poker, his first camera: he begins to machine gun the Parisian monuments. His first photos, rather abstract, tapped in the eye of Alexander Liberman, artistic director of Vogue who offers him collaboration. William Klein is 26 years old.

Le photographe américain William Klein, à la Maison Européenne de la Photographie à Paris le 15 avril 2002 © Maximilien Lamy American photographer William Klein, at the European Photography House in Paris on April 15, 2002

of this return to the native country, eight years later, will be born a cult book, the stripper "Life is good and good for You in New York ", released in France in 1956, but long disdained by American publishers, hostile to the idea of ​​seeing New York as" a slum ".

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Thanks to this book, Federico Fellini notices it and offers him to be one of his assistants on "The nights of Cabiria".

- Cinema and politics -

He takes the opportunity to carry out a work on the eternal city. Will Moscow and Tokyo follow for a long cinema parenthesis, started with "Who are you, Polly Maggoo?" In 1966. The film was a creaky satire on the fashion world, which Klein frequents sporadically, and always with derision.

William Klein also made more than 250 advertising films that marked their time, notably for Citroën, Dim, Saupiquet, Renault, Ricqlès ...

then the time will be for political fights with documentaries like "far from Vietnam" ( 1967) and portraits, the most famous of which is "Muhammad Ali the Greatest" (1974). "This black boxer, converted to Islam, had a real political dimension," said the photographer.

On the plane that takes him to Miami to meet the boxer, at the start of the project, William Klein crosses the black leader Malcolm X (murdered in 1965).

"It was the only seat of free, because no one wanted to be near him. We got along very well," said the one who became very interested in the condition of black Americans, Black Panthers and protest movements.

From the 80s, he abandoned the camera for the viewfinder, produced several books ("Close Up", 1989, "Torino '90", 1990 and "In & Out of Fashion", 1994), and signs the pocket 'A album by Serge Gainsbourg, where the singer appears in transvestite, a cigarette in hand.

"My motto", recalled the photographer, "by doing the (book on) New York was: +Anything Goes +. It always suits me. No rules, no prohibitions, no limits".


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© Pool King Charles III will go to Cardiff this Friday, before returning to London, where he is expected near the coffin of his mother in the evening. Reuters/Danny Lawson He assumes his role. After having chained tributes and official commitments since the death of the Queen, on September 8 at the Scottish Château de Balmoral at the age of 96, Charles III had withdrew on Thursday in his Highgrove campaign for a daytime.

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