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.