WORTH THE WAIT: At 93, the multidimensional artist William Klein is about to get his professional day in the sun this summer with a major retrospective at the International Center of Photography.
The New York City cultural destination will showcase Klein’s fashion, street and other photography, as well as some of his paintings and films starting on June 3 and running through Sept. 12. “William Klein: YES; Photographs Paintings, Films, 1948-2013” will occupy the downtown museum’s entire space.
The New York City-born Klein got his start as a studio assistant for Fernand Léger in Paris in 1948. Trained as a painter, Klein became more widely recognized for his fashion and street photography in the mid-’50s and returned to it in the late ’80s. His fashion shots were featured prominently in Vogue and in a few books including “Life Is Good and Good for You in New York.” The retrospective will feature black-and-white images of Harlem’s street scene in the ’50s and a shot from “Nina and Simone, Piazza di Spagna, Rome, 1958.” There will also be a 2005 convivial group image that Klein shot of Marc Jacobs and friends.
Klein once told WWD, “I find it satisfying that what I’ve done in photography has had so much influence on how people take photographs and what they look at and how they look at things. Fashion photography I couldn’t care less. I did it for money and for all the possibilities of developing my skills technically.”
Klein has resided in Paris for most of his life. Some of his early work will be among the 200-plus pieces on view, as well as more recent images from a 2013 Brooklyn shoot.
Klein has said, “I came from the outside, the rules of photography didn’t interest me. There were things you could do with a camera that you couldn’t do with any other medium — grain, contrast, blur, cock-eyed framing, eliminating or exaggerating gray tones and so on. I thought it would be good to show what’s possible, to say that this is as valid of a way of using the camera as conventional approaches.”
The artist also created documentary films about the former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, the musician “Little Richard” and the Pan-African Festival of Algiers. Klein also created fiction films about the beauty industry, imperialism and consumer culture.
Seemingly always in on the joke that he wryly relayed with his work, Klein once told WWD, “You do things for yourself and you do things for other people, and you hope these things coincide.”