One of the most renowned North American photographers, Helen Levitt (New York, 1913 – 2009) began working at a photographic studio in the Bronx when she was just 18 years old. Levitt discovered the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson shortly after and, following in his footsteps, bought a 35mm Leica camera which she used to photograph the streets of her city. In 1938 she showed her portfolio to Walker Evans who would become her mentor and friend.
Helen Levitt’s work captured daily life in New York during the 1940s and ‘50s and belonged to the genre of street photography practiced by masters such as Robert Frank and William Klein and signified a shift in the history of the photographic medium. Levitt produced a varied and extensive body of work, although her gaze focused particularly on children from impoverished neighborhoods. Her black and white images are full of vitality, familiarity, and spontaneity, traits that have become the hallmark of her work.
Throughout her career Levitt also dedicated herself to cinema. For example, she collaborated on the documentary In The Street (1953), centered on Harlem street life, which was directed by Janice Loeb and the writer James Agee, who later wrote the prologue for her renowned book A Way of Seeing (1965). In 1959 and 1960 she was awarded consecutive Guggenheim Fellowships that allowed her to develop her skills making color photographs.