Helen Levitt, five decades of humanistic images
Helen Levitt first met novelist James Agee at Walker Evans’ apartment in New York City in 1938, and the two formed a deep friendship. Levitt later traveled to Mexico City with Agee’s then wife, Alma, and her son. Several of her Mexican images were later reproduced in the book “Helen Levitt: Mexico City”, published in 1997.
At the moment, an exhibition titled “Helen Levitt: Five Decades” is on view at Laurence Miller Gallery in New York, featuring vintage prints gifted by Levitt to James Agee and his family between 1940 and ca. 2000. The images shown include several of Levitt’s most famous New York images, pictures from Mexico City, and never before exhibited portraits of the American writer.
James Agee was actually an early collaborator with Levitt, and in 1946 he authored an essay on her photographs that served as the introduction to her book A way of seeing. He then wrote “At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work I know.” Agee also provided individual comments on many of the images in the book, which are displayed with the corresponding images in the show.
It was while writing the essay that the idea of making a film together arose. The result was the film “In the Street”, released in 1952, scripted by Agee and filmed by Levitt and Janice Loeb. The gallery is showing the film continuously during the exhibition. It also includes several of Levitt’s later dye-transfer color prints, large-scale murals of children’s graffiti, and a series of Helen’s very intimate first prints.