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William Klein, who helped revolutionize photography, dies aged 96 | Photography

The American photographer William Klein, who stood out for his imagery of fashion and urban life, died in Paris at the age of 96, his son Pierre Klein announced in a press release on Monday.

Klein, whose vivid depictions of the turmoil and violence of city life helped revolutionize photography, died “peacefully” on Saturday, the statement said.

Recognized as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, Klein has also worked in film and fashion.

His death comes on the final day of a retrospective exhibition at the International Center of Photography in New York, which celebrated the multi-faceted artist’s more than six-decade career, including his time as a celebrated street photographer. and fashion, bookmaker, abstract artist, documentary filmmaker and celebrity portraitist.

“According to his wishes, the funeral will be a very private event,” said Pierre Klein, although he added that there will be a public memorial for his father later.

Klein’s images were inspired by tabloid sensationalism, subverting established styles in street and fashion photography – notably as one of the first to portray models outside of studio sets.

His mostly black-and-white work plays with off-center subjects and increased contrast, with young men brandishing guns at close range or scowling faces seen in close-up, sometimes out of focus.

“Klein is one of those legendary photographers who made their own rules, like Man Ray,” said Alain Genestar, director of French photography magazine Polka.

“People are always looking at the camera in his photos because he believed people’s eyes don’t lie,” Genestar said.

Considered one of the fathers of street photography, Klein rose to prominence in the 1960s for his bold fashion shots at Vogue and for his extremely inventive photographic essays on cities such as New York, Paris, Tokyo, Moscow and Rome.

Born into a New York family of ultra-Orthodox Jews in 1926 in upper Manhattan, Klein explored the city’s art museums as a teenager and longed to travel to Europe. He joined the American army during the Second World War and was stationed in Germany and then in France, where he settled permanently after his service.

In 1948, Klein studied painting with Fernand Léger at the Sorbonne in Paris, but turned to photography after winning his first camera in a game of poker.

He achieved international fame in the early 1960s for a series of photobooks about city life, with raw, blurry photos of energy and movement that showed little interest in traditional composition. The first, Life Is Good & Good for You in New York (1956), caused a sensation in France but attracted the opprobrium of critics and other photographers. “They just didn’t get it,” he told the Observer in 2012. sort of against the great sacred tradition of the photography book. They were certainly annoyed.

The book became a classic that upset the tradition of discreet observation. In 1965 Klein turned to film, eventually making 27 short and feature documentaries and filming such figures as Muhammad Ali and Little Richard. His three feature films – Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (1966), Mister Freedom (1968) and The Model Couple (1977) – satirized the worlds of fashion, politics and consumerism.

Director Orson Welles declared Klein’s first film, Broadway by Lights (1958) – a document about neon signs in Times Square – as the first film that really had to be in color. Klein then filmed Muhammad Ali for Cassius the Great (1964), re-released with new footage as Muhammad Ali, The Greatest in 1969. A lifelong tennis fan, he also made The French (1982), a documentary at Roland Garros.

Klein has lived in France since he met his wife, Jeanna Florin, when he was 18. The couple remained together until his death in 2005.

“Our relationship was the love story of the century. We met when we were 18 and we had been together for over 50 years. This is Paris,” he told the Guardian in 2014.

“As a child, I wanted to be part of the Lost Generation who came to France. Going out at the Coupole with Picasso and Giacometti.

When asked if he felt French, Klein said no. “But I’m at home with the French,” he said. “Hanging out with Americans: To me, it sucks.”