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Helen Levitt: In the Street September 13, 2016–January 1, 2017

Levitt - New York, 1939

Helen Levitt, New York, 1939, gelatin silver print, Telfair Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert O. Levitt. © Film Documents LLC

Helen Levitt, New York, 1939–40, gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Polaroid Foundation. © Film Documents LLC

One of most celebrated photographers of the 20th century, Helen Levitt captured candid views of everyday life on the streets of New York City. Helen Levitt: In the Street spans her career from the late 1930s to the mid-1980s. The exhibition features black-and-white and color photographs, as well as a short film by Levitt from the 1940s.

A lifelong New Yorker, Levitt (1913–2009) used her camera to tell the stories of the urban characters she encountered. Frequenting working-class neighborhoods such as the Lower East Side and Spanish Harlem, she documented the theater of life as it played out on stoops and sidewalks.

Using a handheld Leica camera outfitted with a right-angle viewfinder that allowed her to look in one direction but snap photographs in another, Levitt often passed unnoticed by her subjects, capturing unguarded instants of joyful play and meditative melancholy that constitute the mystery and poetry of everyday lives.

The exhibition comprises more than 40 works, including three captivating photographs from the MFAH collection that record the fears and fantasies of children as expressed in their exuberant chalk drawings on city pavement and walls. Also on view is Levitt’s 1948 short film In the Street, a cinematic version of her earlier photographs of children.

Helen Levitt: In the Street is organized by Telfair Museums, Savannah, Georgia.

In Houston, generous support is provided by Mrs. Robert O. Levitt.


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