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Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt Hardcover – November 1, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Often squalid and always unsentimental, but full of wonder and sly humor, photographer Levitt's New York City is both familiar and startling, never more so than in these color photos from the early 1970s. (The book also includes a handful of prints from 1959–1960.) Without the arty distancing effect of black-and-white (for which she is primarily known), Levitt's trademark wit has more hard-edged immediacy. Levitt's city on a summer afternoon, the time of day when most of these photos were taken, is as full of oddities as the ocean floor. In one striking shot, a tiny girl crouches awkwardly by the curb like a little crab, her delicate knees and elbows askew. Levitt seems to regard the human body as a fascinating bit of found sculpture. She captures a man's belly sagging in counterpoint to a crumpled car fender, a beggar's folds of fat hanging down like the fabric of his rag bags and the brutal contrast between an old, bent-over couple and the gleaming hoods of a pair of sport cars. Old age and poverty are on extensive display, but the effect is never grim. Levitt—who still lives and works in New York—never lets the pathetic and dirty overshadow the pure pleasure of seeing without flinching. (Feb.)
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About the Author

Helen Levitt (1913-2009) had her first solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1943. Levitt’s photographs appeared in Edward Steichen’s landmark 1955 show The Family of Man and in more recent exhibitions of great importance, including MoMA’s Photography Until Now and the National Gallery of Art’s On the Art of Fixing a Shadow in Washington, D.C., both celebrating the invention of photography. She has been the subject of numerous retrospective exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the International Center of Photography, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Levitt’s reputation as New York City’s master street photographer was further cemented in 2001 when her photographs were featured in the opening sequence of Ken Burns’ acclaimed PBS documentary series, New York. The author of the critically acclaimed, best-selling monographs Crosstown, Here and There, and Slide Show (powerHouse Books, 2001, 2004, and 2005), Levitt lived and worked in New York City, naturally.

John Szarkowski is director emeritus of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and was the director of the department from 1962 to 1991, in which time he oversaw more than one hundred exhibitions and the inauguration of MoMA’s photography collection galleries, and edited and contributed writing to various publications. His exhibitions include New Documents, Mirrors and Windows, Photography until Now, and retrospectives of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, and Eugène Atget. Szarkowski is the recipient of the International Center of Photography Infinity Awards for Writing and for Lifetime Achievement, the Royal Photographic Society Progress Medal, and the National Arts Club Gold Medal for Photography, to name a few. He has taught at Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, and Yale. Szarkowski returned to picture making in 1991, and has exhibited his work at Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and the Cleveland Museum of Art. He lives in New York.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: powerHouse Books; First Edition edition (November 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576872521
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576872529
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.7 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,469,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By cameracraft1 on December 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I'm a big fan of Helen Levitt's work & I would love to give this book a 5 star review. Unfortunately her excellent photography is not presented well due to a poor print job. It seems that something went wrong in the scanning or pre press phase. All the photos are too light & the colours are washed out. This is not how Kodachrome should look. Some of the same images are printed in the German book titled 'Helen Levitt' & the difference is significant. The photos in the German book are much more accurate. Unfortunately this publication is no longer in print & hard to come by.

I already knew that this book 'Slide Show' had poor reproductions as I had a chance to view a copy in the library. I bought it anyway because it is the only way to see some of her photos. I can't think what went wrong as Powerhouse seems to be a quality publisher & I own other photography books by them where the printing is fine.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Neurasthenic VINE VOICE on November 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The photos in this collection portray working people and poor people, people who are poorly dressed, people without air conditioning on hot summer days, people with ugly pets. The collection is oddly timeless; many photographs of New York can be dated to within a few years by looking at store awnings and, clothing styles, and haircuts, but not these. The people whom Levitt photographed are wearing clothing that was shapeless, ugly, and impossible to date in 1960, 1970, or 1980. With the exception of a couple of photos that show movie theater marquees in the background, nothing here can be dated.

The photos are all the more remarkable because they flatter nobody. Did people give permission to be photographed, knowing how they would look? Had they given up long ago?

Some of the photos give their subjects dignity, but not all. The book is sometimes cruel, sometimes funny.

As an aside, I'd love to know where these photos were taken. Some look like East Harlem, but not a single photo shows a street sign, and I can't identify any of the stores.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By W. Rosen on August 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
What a remarkable treasure to have this book of Helen Levitt's color work. Pre-dating Eggleston this is inventive and wonderful to look at. While she is mostly known for her black and white photographs, this opens a new level of appreciation for her contributions to photography. Beautifully printed, this is highly recommended for fans of color photography.
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Format: Hardcover
This picture book is an icon of his time. She has captured the real life.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MoonX TOP 100 REVIEWER on October 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, if you're looking at this book, you probably know who Helen Levitt is and you can probably imagine the amazing photographs that are in this book.

Helen Levitt was one of the pioneers of street photography, a self taught photographer who eventually began working with Cartier-Bresson, another pioneer of street photography. Mind you, these two photographers represented REAL street photography, not the (pardon my language) crap we see today from the college kids running around with their $6,000 Leica that Mommy or Daddy bought them. Street photography, unfortunately, has become WAYYYYYYYY overdone and destroyed by people with no true "eye" for it. Now we just see photo after photo of homeless people, stray animals, homeless people with stray animals, etc. etc.

Anyway, sorry to get off topic a bit there. My point is, BUY THIS BOOK. This is REAL street photography where talent and hard work are demonstrated through these beautiful prints. And if you truly want to learn what real street photography is all about, this book is a great starting point.
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