Street Shutterbug Helen Levitt Born On This Day In 1913

This week’s Brooklyn Daily Eagle is carrying a posthumous piece on acclaimed 20th Century street photographer Helen Levitt, who would be 98 years old today.

Like scores of other notable figures from the last hundred years or so of American history, Helen Levitt was born and raised in Bensonhurst.

Levitt was known as one of the masters of modern street photography, with a career that spanned from the Depression era 1930’s to the dot com era 1990’s – when her limbs could no longer walk the labyrinth landscape of the city on the look out for new subjects.

From the Eagle:

Photographer Helen Levitt was born in Bensonhurst on Aug. 31, 1913. Her father was a Russian immigrant who ran a wholesale knit-goods business.
Levitt became a master of street photography, capturing stunning shots of her native New York, with some of her most lasting images being of children. Photography historian Keith Davis wrote, “Levitt responded to this protean theater of the street by creating photographs that are lyrical, uncontrived, and mysterious. Fascinated by the simplest marks and the most fleeting gestures, Levitt made images of children’s graffiti that suggest the timeless human need for self-expression, as well as the surprising insights of unselfconscious artists.”

Books containing Levitt’s work include In the Street: Chalk Drawings and Messages, New York City, 1938-48, as well as Mexico City and A Way of Seeing, which included an essay by James Agee.

The story also notes that DUMBO publisher Powerhouse Books has recently published some hardcover collections of Levitt’s, including Crosstown (2001); Here and There (2004), Slide Show (2005) and Helen Levitt (2008).

Levitt passed away in her Manhattan apartment on March 29, 2009.

Her shoes have yet to be filled.


Sign in or become a Bklyner member to join the conversation.