An exclusive interview with photographer William Klein and a first-ever glimpse behind the scenes at his Paris studio. ‘Almost everything is coincidence and luck and chance.’ William Klein is one of the twentieth century’s most important photographers and film-makers and in this interview for Tate Media, he discusses his experience photographing on the streets of New York, the challenges in publishing his first New York book and how he worked with filmmaker Federico Fellini.
William Klein’s book “Life is Good and Good for You in New York” is a seminal work in the history of photography, capturing the spirit and energy of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. The book is a visual tour de force, with Klein’s dynamic and experimental style capturing the rawness and vitality of the city in a way that had never been seen before.
In his review for The New York Times, Andy Grundberg hailed the book as “an extraordinary achievement,” noting that Klein’s “ability to make formal experimentation look so effortless is nothing short of astonishing.”
Grundberg also noted that the book “demonstrates how Klein’s use of the camera was not simply a tool for capturing reality, but a means of exploring it,” highlighting the way that Klein’s images capture the social and cultural realities of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s.
Similarly, David Campany praised the book for its “radical and innovative” approach to street photography, noting that Klein’s images “are often not so much about seeing as about experiencing.” Campany also noted the book’s use of typography and design, which he described as “dynamic and anarchic,” adding to the overall sense of energy and chaos that pervades the images.
Others have noted the book’s social and political commentary, with Klein using his images to critique the inequalities and injustices of urban life. In his review for The Guardian, critic Sean O’Hagan noted that “Klein’s New York is a place of intense social contrast, where the rich and poor jostle for space in the streets and the subway,” highlighting the way that Klein’s images capture the complex realities of life in the city.
Overall, “Life is Good and Good for You in New York” remains a landmark work in the history of photography, and a testament to William Klein’s innovative and groundbreaking approach to the medium. The book captures the energy, vitality, and complexity of New York City in a way that continues to resonate with viewers today, and serves as an inspiration to new generations of photographers and artists.
William Klein’s involvement with Federico Fellini is an intriguing aspect of his illustrious career. The two artists collaborated on several projects in the 1960s and 1970s, and their partnership resulted in some of the most innovative and influential works in both cinema and photography.
The collaboration between Klein and Fellini began in the early 1960s when Klein was living in Rome, working on his first feature film, “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” Fellini, who was one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of the era, was immediately drawn to Klein’s irreverent, unconventional approach to filmmaking and photography.
In 1965, Fellini asked Klein to collaborate with him on his next film, “Juliet of the Spirits.” Klein was responsible for creating the film’s dream sequences, using his innovative techniques in photography to create surreal and otherworldly images.
Klein and Fellini’s next collaboration was on the 1969 film “Satyricon,” a sprawling, psychedelic epic based on the works of the ancient Roman poet Petronius. For this film, Klein was again responsible for creating the dream sequences, which were even more elaborate and surreal than those in “Juliet of the Spirits.” He also contributed to the film’s art direction and costume design, bringing his unique aesthetic sensibility to the project.
The collaboration between Klein and Fellini extended beyond the world of cinema. In the 1970s, the two artists collaborated on a number of photography projects, including a series of photographs taken in Rome’s Cinecittà film studio. Klein’s photographs captured the behind-the-scenes world of filmmaking, showcasing the elaborate sets, costumes, and props that were integral to Fellini’s films.
Klein’s photographs of Fellini’s world also included portraits of the filmmaker himself, which captured the essence of Fellini’s larger-than-life persona. In these portraits, Fellini is shown in various stages of production, from the early stages of planning to the frenzied atmosphere on the set. Klein’s photographs offer a unique glimpse into the creative process of one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the 20th century.
Klein and Fellini’s collaboration was not without its challenges. The two artists had very different personalities and creative approaches, and there were times when their partnership was strained. However, their shared commitment to pushing the boundaries of art and cinema ultimately prevailed, and their collaborations remain some of the most innovative and groundbreaking works in both fields.
In addition to his collaborations with Fellini, Klein’s career has been marked by a relentless pursuit of innovation and experimentation. He continued to push the boundaries of photography and filmmaking, and always sought new ways to challenge the viewer and break down conventional notions of art and beauty.