William Klein: New York – Book

This is a book that has been out of print for years, so far as I can tell, and is therefore rare and expensive when it does crop up.  All praise therefore to Errata Editions for this edition!  Errata specialise in reproductions of classic photography texts; not facsimiles or straightforward copies but ‘books on books’, as they themselves describe them, scans of the originals presented in the form of a new book, a sort of meta-book.  Though somewhat reduced in size from the originals, each page reproduces an image of a page or pages from the original.  They also come with useful introductions and essays, making these new versions more enlightening from a student’s perspective than the original.  Not to mention a lot more affordable!

It remains something of a bug-bear of mine that so many great photography books are not in print and are available sporadically at significant expense.  Even the likes of those estimable publishers Steidl, who are doing a lot to keep some classics in print and readily available, are still on the expensive side.

As to the photographs themselves: this book must have caused quite a stir at the time.  It is perhaps the photographic equivalent of Ginsburg’s “Howl”, so freewheeling and apparently anarchic, not to mention unvirtuosic, is its appearance.  Despite appearances though it does seem to me to be the product of a considerable amount pf thought about how best to organise and lay out the photos, which are in the end grouped thematically.  And what a book, visually striking and for all the kaleidoscopic effects, deeply affecting and often moving.  Although Klein show New York and its denizens in often unflattering light there is an occasional delicacy of regard that is clearly sympathetic.

It is interesting that in his accompanying essay, “William Klein and the Radioactive Fifties”, Max Kozloff puts Klein and Frank together.  Although their approaches are different from a technical point of view I see much in common with their vision and intention and I think they complement each other closely.  Together they are also, for me at least, another nail in the coffin of the decisive moment, on which I have previously expressed scepticism.  As Kozloff its it:  “A 35mm street shot was generally apprehended as a glimpse, a partial view only, whether snatched or studied.  To make it count despite its narrative limitations, one had to assume something like “the decisive moment”, or build up a tory or a theme through an accretion of related frames, much like a stilted movie.  Frank and Klein, contrary to both methods, developed a form of witness in which the whole of their perception is implied or evident in the single fugitive glance.” (Klein, 2016, unnumbered page).

Ginsburg, A , (1955).  Howl and Other Poems.  San Francisco:  City Lights

Klein, W, (2016).  Life is Good & Good for You in New York.  New York:Errata Editions

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