Artist, filmmaker and photographer William Klein is arguably one of the 20th Century’s greatest image makers. While Klein worked in many mediums, he is best known for his photography.

In a new retrospective exhibition of his work, the International Center of Photography (ICP), one of our favorite, more intimately-scaled museums in New York city, is currently presenting an exhibition of Klein’s work through Sept. 12. The show is called “William Klein: YES” and spans nearly seven-decades of Klein’s work. 

An American-born Frenchman who had trained with the French painter Fernand Leger, Klein had a broad set of aesthetic and cultural influences to draw from. He famously deployed a handful of pioneering photographic techniques to his work, which spanned documentary-style street photography, photojournalism and fashion photography.

His fashion work for the likes of Vogue magazine is iconic and perhaps his most visually striking work. It was also, like for a cadre of photographers of his generation, a way to pay the bills and afforded him a degree of security to explore other artistic mediums.

Klein had a charismatic knack for evoking and capturing the personalities of his subjects and presenting these in less formal, more dynamic and unconventional ways that was new in the 1950s and ’60s. As the New York Times review of the ICP show observes, “Klein seeks out vibrant subjects who respond to his own vitality” and his pictures “thrust the viewer into the action of the city with a rude tug.

A lifetime later, Klein’s images have aged exceptionally well. Klein is now 94 years old and more or less retired, but we can’t help but imagine what kind of images he might take and create today using platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok and the array of built-in photo- and video-manipulating tools available on them.

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