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Crosstown illustrated edition Edition

5.0 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1576871034
ISBN-10: 1576871037
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Editorial Reviews

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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

From Francine Prose’s introduction to Crosstown: Photographs by Helen Levitt:

Look at a Helen Levitt photo, and the city streets, subways, and rooftops become pure Helen Levitt. Encountering Levitt’s pictures, taken mostly between 1936 and the present, mostly around Manhattan, is like taking off your sunglasses, or cleaning your spectacles, or just blinking, which is only appropriate, since so many of them seem to have been taken in a blink, and to picture something that will be gone, that was gone, a blink after it was taken. These photographs radically readjust our visual fine-tuning to remind us of how rapidly everything changes, of how large a fraction of what we see won’t exist in its present form only a heartbeat from now. It’s impossible not to notice that the beautiful gypsy kid, caught in mid-motion in the doorway of his apartment, was disappearing even as his portrait was being taken….

The photographs in Crosstown make the difficult look easy. They seem so effortlessly right that it’s only when you think for two seconds, or recall all the bad documentary photography that you’ve seen, or pause to marvel at the high wire act they’re performing even as they focus steadfastly on the ground, that you realize how frighteningly simple it would be to get all of this terribly wrong, to make the children cute and the old ladies darling. Helen Levitt’s work is never sentimental, it never estheticizes or objectifies, never turns its subjects into art objects, never distorts them into noble heroes of poverty and desolation; it is never falsely, preemptively elegiac or nostalgic. You never feel the artist calling attention to herself or to the breadth and compassion of her vision. Everything is happening too quickly — and too interestingly — for anything remotely resembling self-conscious artiness, or narcissism.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: powerHouse Books; illustrated edition edition (October 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576871037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576871034
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 9.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,664,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Helen Levitt is not one of those New Yorkers who look neither to the left or right as they travel the streets of the city. This is a book about life. The neighborhoods she shoots are generally poor ones, yet we see people that are involved; people who are actively engaged in life even when they seem to be doing nothing. Her subjects -often children- play, they love, they communicate, they are lost in thought, and occasionally are sleeping.
A fine sense of humor permeates many of the scenes. Some subjects are caught in contorted, puzzling positions. We see the incongruous position of objects: an old 33rpm record in the street; a pair of shoes sitting by themselves on a sidewalk; three chickens wandering around a decrepit room -where did they come from? A mother's head is buried in the bottom of a baby buggy while the tyke yelps with joy. A dog is caught in the act of mistaking his owner's leg for a fire hydrant while she talks to a friend.
In general HL catches the warm side of humanity. Only a couple of pictures look like they were taken from a file of Jacob Riis (a 19th century photographer of New York tenement life). There was one particularly sad shot of a woman and her three children sitting on their front steps. They are obviously impoverished. The two youngest children seem quite content, but the mother seems weighed down with her life, and in the teen-age daughter we see the beginning of lost hopes.
This book is a must for anyone interested in street photography. It will take you a long time to get through this book as each photograph will hold your attention for some time.
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Format: Hardcover
Helen Levitt's name is less well known than some of her images of New York street life. Perhaps that is the way she would wish it since she seems to have never sought fame. The book is as reticient as she and there is little commentary, but in truth little is necessary though I would love to know more about her and her work. This is a beautifully printed, organized and designed book and it was a pleasure to spend hours looking at the photographs. Often it was difficult to turn the page because each image is so compelling and resonates on many different levels. In a way, they are the perfect street images; they have the look of a snapshot but are so much more than that. Though they are all of New York they have a universal quality and speak about the truth of people's lives in a profound way. I admired the formal qualities of the photographs but what resonates most is the deep humanity of what she does, what she sees and records. It sometimes seems to me that photographers, in their quest for a good images,treats subjects with a level of distain and distance that is uncomfortable and ultimately manipulative. Crosstown is nothing like that and even when the photos are funny, and several are, they are funny in a very human way. There is nothing saccharine or trite in her work either and she has a great gift of photographing children without slipping into cuteness. I am a photographer and I treasure this book. I would certainly recommend it to others interested in photography, but I thinks its' appeal extends to anyone interested in the human condition and how we relate to one another.
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By A Customer on February 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has a number of unique photographs. Ms Levitt with many of these wonderful pictures,leaves you wondering what happened before or just after the picture was taken.
You can I believe see some connection to the style of Cartier Bresson with whom I understand she spent some time working.
I recommend the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my latest favorite photography book. I have a large collection that includes many with Manhattan as subject. The images captured by Levitt are stunning and the binding of the book itself is wonderful.
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