Thursday, October 1, 2009

Helen Levitt

A small tribute to Helen Levitt hangs in the Met’s halls en route to the Contemporary art wing. Her photographs capture the kinetic charm of the city’s urban landscape. There's an influence of documentarian geniuses Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans although Levitt has less edge, focusing on urban youth in all its free-spirited glory. One of her standout shots is a Mid 40’s picture of two adults and a child stylized into a kind of totem pole. The woman stands tallest has a slack mouth and peers toward the east probably Uptown. The darker-skinned, chunkier man wears a stern look and faces the opposite way. Below him, is a messy-haired child in dreamy, yet frazzled consternation. The boy gapes in the same direction as the woman. His vantage point both physically and chronologically lower may hold the answer to what has grabbed his attention.

Notice the mimetic play of frames within frames in the first shot. The theatricality comes purely from the children (subject's imagination) rather than the artist.

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