William Klein first gained distinction in the mid-twentieth century for his original approach of creating ironic fashion photography through using innovative and unusual techniques. Now widely considered both a revolutionary photographer and filmmaker, Klein...
William Klein first gained distinction in the mid-twentieth century for his original approach of creating ironic fashion photography through using innovative and unusual techniques. Now widely considered both a revolutionary photographer and filmmaker, Klein originally trained as a painter studying under Fernand Léger in the 1950s bringing an artist’s sensibility to all the media in which he worked. It would be the medium of photography in which Klein first achieved widespread acclaim shooting street photography of various cities winning the Prix Nadar in 1957 for his images of New York City. He also created avant-garde commercial fashion photography during his time at Vogue from 1954 to 1966 earning a reputation as an iconoclast using wide-angled lenses to create surreal effects and introducing movement and energy in the form of blurred motion into his naturally lit street shoots that often mockingly approached the world of fashion.
By the beginning of the 1960s when Klein was solidifying his reputation as a photographer, he was turning increasingly towards filmmaking blurring the boundaries between both mediums. He said, “I learned a lot taking fashion photographs – how to use lights, sets, locations – how to come up with ideas under pressure. Which was preparation for later doing tight movie schedules.” Carrying over Klein’s ironic approach to fashion, his first full-length film that he wrote, directed, and designed was the satire “Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?” Made in 1965 and 1966, it was inspired by his years at Vogue becoming a kind of unsympathetic postscript to his fashion years and the media even including a spoof of Diana Vreeland. Like his other two fiction features, “Mr. Freedom” and “Le Couple Témoin”, it is a satire. Klein has directed numerous short and feature-length documentaries and has produced over 250 television commercials. Today he is most remembered for his unorthodox photographic techniques which jolted the world in the 1950s and 1960s forever changing how the medium.