For more than seventy years, Helen Levitt (1913-2009) used her camera to capture fresh and unstudied views of everyday life on the streets of New York City. Roaming through the Lower East Side, Spanish Harlem and other urban neighborhoods, Levitt began her career equipped with a handheld Leica with a right-angle viewfinder that allowed her to remain unobtrusive as she documented life in the city. Only a few years after Levitt took up photography, the Museum of Modern Art selected her work for inclusion in the inaugural exhibition of the museum’s photography department in 1940. Levitt’s meteoric rise within the world of photography was affirmed when MoMA subsequently honored her with a coveted solo exhibition in 1943.
Levitt’s photographs, first in black and white and later in color, document neighborhood matriarchs planted on their front stoops, pedestrians negotiating New York’s busy sidewalks, and, perhaps most famously, boisterous children at play. Her revealing work observes people of every age, race, and class, without attempting to impose social commentary. Sojourns in New Hampshire, Mexico, and even Savannah added variety to Levitt’s oeuvre, but New York remained at the heart of her work.
This exhibition is organized by Telfair Museums and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta. The photographs in this exhibition are drawn from the permanent collections of both the Telfair and the High.
This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of Mrs. Robert O. Levitt.