Helen LEVITT, New York Enlarge 1 /1


United States of America 1913 – 2009

New York 1972 Materials & Technique: photographs, dye transfer colour photograph

Dimensions: printed image 23.4 h x 35.6 w cm sheet 35.4 h x 42.9 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1984
Accession No: NGA 84.1908

Inspired by seeing work by Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1935, Levitt took her camera to the streets. Children became her most enduring subjects and she was able to photograph them without falling into the trap of sentimentality. Like Evans, Levitt was famously reticent, and sought to shoot unobserved by fitting her Leica with a prism finder -- which meant she could shoot from waist level. Her approach eschews the sensational; instead she is interested in capturing small, idiosyncratic actions in the everyday. Her images were shot with a gentle, lyrical wit, though at times a dark strangeness also surfaces.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra