(From Wikipedia, the free
Helen Levitt (born 31 August 1913) is an
American documentary photographer.
Levitt grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Dropping out of school, she taught
herself photography while working for a commercial photographer. While
teaching some classes in art to children in 1937, Levitt became intrigued
with the transitory chalk drawings that were part of the New York
children's street culture of the time. She purchased a Leica camera and
began to photograph these works as well as the children who made them. The
resulting photographs appeared, to great acclaim, in 1987 as In The
Street: chalk drawings and messages, New York City 1938–1948. Named as one
of the "100 best photo-books", first-editions are now highly collectable.
She studied with Walker Evans 1938 and 1939. In 1943 Edward Steichen at
the Museum of Modern Art curated her first solo exhibition, after which
she began to find press work as a documentary photographer. In the late
1940s she made two documentary films with Janice Loeb and James Agee: In
the Street (1948) and The Quiet One (1948). Levitt, along with Loeb and
Sidney Meyers, received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay of
The Quiet One. Levitt was later credited as a cinematographer on The
Savage Eye (1960), which was produced by Ben Maddow, Meyers, Joseph Strick;
she was also credited as an assistant director for Strick and Maddow's
film version of The Balcony (1963).
Levitt worked in film for about ten years. In 1959 and 1960, Levitt
received two Guggenheim Foundation grants to take color photographs on the
streets of New York, and she returned to still photography. Her first
major book was A Way of Seeing (1965). Much of her work in color from the
1960s was stolen in a burglary. The remaining photos, and others taken in
the following years, can be seen in the 2005 book Slide Show: The Color
Photographs of Helen Levitt. In 1976 she was a Photography Fellow of the
National Endowment for the Arts.
She has remained active as a photographer for nearly 70 years and still
lives in New York City. New York's "visual poet laureate" is notoriously
private and publicity shy.