William Klein, photographer and filmmaker, dies at 96 : NPR

Photographer, filmmaker, painter and graphic designer William Klein at a press event in Paris in 2005. Klein died Saturday at age 96.

Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images


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Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images


Photographer, filmmaker, painter and graphic designer William Klein at a press event in Paris in 2005. Klein died Saturday at age 96.

Pierre Verdy/AFP via Getty Images

One of William Klein’s early mentors, the artist Fernand Leger, told him: “Get out of the galleries. Look at the buildings; get out into the street.” That’s exactly what Klein did — and he became one of the most influential photographers of his generation, channeling the kineticism of cities including New York, Paris, Tokyo and Moscow into his work.

Klein died Saturday at the age of 96 in his adopted city of Paris, his son Pierre Klein announced. His death came in the final days of a major retrospective show at the International Center of Photography in New York, which was set to close on Monday.

Born in 1926 in New York, Klein attended the City College of New York before joining the army in 1946. He won his first camera in a poker game while stationed in Germany. Two years later, he moved to Paris, and studied abstract painting and sculpture at the Sorbonne thanks to the GI Bill; there he met and studied Leger.

In the mid-1950s, Vogue magazine first published some of Klein’s acerbic and even satirical photographs, which led to a lasting and deep connection with the world of fashion.

His first photography book, Life is Good and Good for You, was published in 1956; he was soon hailed as a major new force, and a stream of other books followed. Although he is primarily known as a still photographer, Klein also made several films, including 1969’s Muhammad Ali, The Greatest.

Some of Klein’s works are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; the Center Pompidou in Paris; and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In 1989, he was appointed Commander of Arts and Letters by the French government.