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Helen Levitt

Street Theater

February 2 – March 26, 2022

Black and white photo of a group sod you young boys paling with the frame that previous held a mirror, now broken. A boy on a tricycle is framed in the broken mirror.

New York City, 1940

Black and white photo of three kids on a NYC stoop wearing masks.

New York City, 1939

Black and white photo of a young child walking away crying with anan open fire hydrant behind her, her mother reaches out her hand to welcome her back.

New York City, 1939

Black and white photo of a woman crossing the streets, carrying two old fashioned milk bottles and smelling, a pregnant woman behind her looks over her shoulder at her and gives her a dirty look.

New York City, 1945

Black and white photo of a woman comforting another woman under an elevated train Laine in NYC.

New York City, 1939

Black and white photo of a young boy leaning over to comfort a boy who is sitting sadly on a stoop.

New York City, 1945

Black and white photo of two kids in masks, one has climbed a tree, the other stands at the bottom—both face the camera.

New York City, 1938

Black and white photo of of young boys who have climbed atop a tall doorway and are now sparring at the top.

New York City, 1939

Black and white photo of a boy wearing a hat, standing in the middle of a room, looking at the camera as he leans against an entryway.

New York City, 1939

Black and white photo of James Agee reclining with his wife Mia, their hands touching.

James and Mia Agee, 1942

Color photo of three kids sitting in an open window sill, peering out.

New York City, 1959

Photo of an old man holding a discarded cardboard box, looking up at a young child perched in a windowsill and laughing.

New York City, 1972

Press Release

Helen Levitt framed the people in her photographs with evident fascination. Her pictures demonstrate a particular interest in the way people carry themselves when they come together, converse, and interact. A recurrent motif in Helen’s photographs is an outreached arm. She seems drawn to people's efforts to connect, and the expressive range of simple gestures.

The children in her photographs play games that border on the inscrutable. Her early photographs were made at the height of Surrealism’s influence and they seem to suggest that all one has to do to glimpse the world of dreams and the uncanny is to slow down and observe children at play.

John Szarkowski, writing about her work in 1973, observed: “‘What is remarkable about the photographs is that these immemorially routine acts of life, practiced everywhere and always, are revealed as being full of grace, drama, humor, pathos, and surprise, and also that they are filled with the qualities of art, as though the street were a stage, and its peoples were all actors and actresses, mimes, orators, and dancers.”

Helen Levitt’s work is distinguished by the genuine fondness displayed for the people in her photographs. Her subjects are never romanticized, her depictions are always unvarnished, yet her work emanates a confidence that every person’s story is rich and worthy of examination.