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Brooklyn+Klein Hardcover – April 14, 2015
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About the Author
Trained as a painter, Klein studied under Fernand Léger and found early success with exhibitions of his work. However, he soon moved on to photography and achieved widespread fame as a fashion photographer for Vogue and for his photo essays on various cities. Despite having no training as a photographer, Klein won the Prix Nadar in 1957 for New York, a book of photographs taken during a brief return to his hometown in 1954. Klein's work was considered revolutionary for its "ambivalent and ironic approach to the world of fashion", its "uncompromising rejection of the then prevailing rules of photography" and for his extensive use of wide-angle and telephoto lenses, natural lighting and motion blur. Klein tends to be cited in photography books along with Robert Frank as among the fathers of street photography, one of those mixed compliments that classifies a man who is hard to classify. The world of fashion would become the subject for Klein's first feature film, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, which, like his other two fiction features, Mr. Freedom and The Model Couple, is a satire.
Klein has directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries and has produced over 250 television commercials.
Though American by birth, Klein has lived and worked in France since his late teens. His work has sometimes been openly critical of American society and foreign policy; the film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote that Klein's 1968 satire Mr. Freedom was "conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made."
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Klein's greatest effort was also his first, Life is Good and Good For You In New York, done in the mid-1950s when he was in his 20s and obviously full of piss and vinegar. Save your money and buy that instead, despite the deeply-flawed Errata edition. (My review is on Amazon.)
Brooklyn + Klein was done in Klein's mid-80s. Material available on-line shows him being pushed around in a wheelchair. At best he is leaning up against something with a cane nearby. The credits list two assistants. And the project was shot for camera-maker Sony.
So it's unfair to compare the two works. Instead, I guess that one-third of these new images might have made the cut for his 1956 masterpiece. (That is only 17 keepers out of 52--Brooklyn + Klein is not a very big book.)
Still, Klein is roaming through very fertile and well-stomped ground for street photography. Who owns a DSLR and couldn't make at least a few decent images from Coney Island, an AfroPunk Festival and a Jamaican Day parade?
Other shots, including several of the Hasidic Jews and all four of the random storefronts appear to be padding. The storefronts look like they were taken from a car.
Sony furnished the camera and "commissioned" the book. And perhaps it had some control over what got printed. Klein's signature blur of the 1950s makes only a token appearance here...blur doesn't sell cameras.
And some of the crowd images have even more interesting detail shots hidden away. Cropping would produce better photographs...but that too veers away from sharpness that sells cameras.
Italian publisher Contrasto furnishes a nicely bound and printed book with images on heavy paper. There isn't much text, but a couple passages suffer from lack of an editor or bad translation.