New York: Life is Good & Good For You In New York! Trance Witness Reveals. Photographs by William Klein. Photography Magazine, London, 1956. 192 pp. Quarto. First British edition. Clothbound with gilt title. Illustrated dust jacket. Contains 'tourist booklet', which remains firmly attached by the cord as issued. Full-page gravure reproductions.
Review of William Klein’s New York by Minor White, originally published in "Image Magazine", Journal of Photography of the George Eastman House, September, 1957 and posted on the American Suburb AmericanSuburbX blog
"Raucous is the word for William Klein’s New York. Sensational in the worst sense of that word; still after the cacophonous din gets out of your eyes, the pictures resemble memories of what one has seen in the big, bad city. And after one stops feeling sorry for the poor scientists who slave, sweat, and die to make photographic materials that yield continuous tone, beautiful continuous tone, the book begins to look exciting. It may even be truthful in a narrow vein.
"The book is down to earth literally. It proves, however, that the 'ain’t it a shame' school has changed. It is not shameful any more, but bawdy, gaudy and tawdry. People squirm through the book like Gustav Dore’s illustrations of the Inferno. Rut Dante’s Inferno here is only a pile of angleworms loving the rut. Animal living is photographed full tide with barely a moment of lyricism, none of beauty, and tragedy only a match struck on the seat of the pants.
There is no point selecting a few favorites; if one does one misses the violence of contrasts. If one stops to decide which pictures are good and which bad, the turmoil of pulsating life is not experienced. And if that is lost, the rest is nothing.
"How illuminating it would be if we could listen to Lewis W. Hine comment on this book. He might well think that the people found in Klein’s New York were not worth his lifetime of reformist efforts. He might regret his life spent trying to improve living conditions thereby hoping to improve people. He had a love for people. By comparison Klein loves only the excitement of riding high on the shoulders of the vulgar, noisy throng.
Though similarities exist, Klein’s book is not a sociological document such as Hine’s Ellis Island. A different age, a different period is only part of the difference. Actually Klein did not photograph a city; he matched with cheap sensational photography the vulgarity of life in all its ugliness.
As Rernard Rerenson, eminent art critic, would object, this book has no "life enhancing" qualities."
The ASX Editor’s note: "Sometimes it is difficult to see the special until you get some distance down the road. For some, it is particularly difficult. It appears that Minor White fell into this trap, a trap of clinging to an aesthetic that is fading, shifting and losing ground. At the same time, he missed something that was coming and gaining speed. The 60's & 70's would mark a turning point and the Minor’s, Weston’s and Adam’s and their focus on the reverent and the spiritual, on the tonal qualities and the zone system, all of this would take a back seat to other, more energetic, tension-filled and exciting variations of this lovely and 'vulgar' craft that is called photography.)"
"Improvising, thriving on accident and surprise, Klein turned out raw, kinetic, and utterly original photographs--each one a gut reaction to the energy of the urban street, writes Vince Aletti in Roth, et. al., The Book of 101 Books
Picking up on the same theme Martin Parr and Gerry Badger write that the "book's internal rhythm contains as many cadences, breaks and unexpected flights of fancy as a Sonny Rollins sax solo" [The Photobook: A History, Vol. 1). Aletti goes on to say that "...Between [its] covers, rules were being broken. No two pages were alike: full-bleed images were followed by white-bordered pictures set on black pages; a stack of small photos was set next to a shot so big it straddled the gutter; one spread looked like a scrapbook, another like a checkerboard. A long, narrow insert that looked like a supermarket handout contained rambling captions peppered with bra ads, tabloid headlines, a Mad magazine cover, a can of spaghetti. It was cheesy, delirious, pure Pop art. Klein went on to make similarly splashy books on Rome (1958-59), Tokyo (1964), and Moscow (1964), as well as the inevitable films, but New York remains matchless, a time bomb that's never been defused."
Fine-; light wear at ends of spine; minor bumps; jacket with chipping at 'tips' (slight loss at base of spine); edge wear with two tears (some adjacent creasing) of about 1 in./3 cm.