William Klein, an American photographer whose creative portraiture style strongly influenced fashion and street photography in the second half of the 20th century, has died at the age of 96.
Klein died Saturday in Paris, his son, Pierre Klein, said in a statement Monday.
Born in New York City in 1926 to Hungarian-Jewish parents, Klein grew up in Manhattan and studied sociology at the City University of New York. After serving in Europe with the US Army during World War II, he moved to Paris to study painting under the GI Bill.
Klein met and married Jeanne Florin, a model and painter, shortly after he arrived in Paris. The two lived together in France until her death in 2005.
Klein, who studied briefly with the French painters Andre Lhote and Fernand Leger, had his first solo exhibition in Brussels in 1951, and another in Milan a year later. In 1954, he turned his attention to photography after meeting Alexander Liberman, artistic director at Vogue, and began a 10-year partnership with the magazine.
During the same period, he created a groundbreaking photo diary of his hometown of New York, titled “Life is Good & Good For You in New York.” The book addresses Klein’s unique use of wide angles, contrast in composition, and unusual framing that defined the still-nascent genre of street photography.
The book was published in Paris, London and Rome in 1956 and won the Nadar Prize the following year. He published other photo diaries of other cities, Rome in 1959, Moscow and Tokyo in 1964, and Paris in 2002.
He is also a renowned filmmaker, having produced a number of documentaries and feature films throughout his career, covering topics such as the fashion industry, the war in Vietnam and boxing. He is famous Muhammed Ali.
Klein first ventured into cinema in 1956, when Italian director Federico Fellini, impressed by Klein’s raw images of street life in New York City, asked him to make the series. 1957 film “Nights of Cabiria”, about a prostitute in Rome.