Helen Levitt: The Original Humans of New York: The Best Multicultural Photography in the World Part VII


Before Humans of New York became a social media sensation and before Bill Cunningham made street photography fashionable, Helen Levitt, inspired by a conversation with Cartier-Bresson and took to the streets of Manhattan equipped with a Leica. She slipped past the glitter and lights and makeup to examine the underbelly, the grit. Hers was the city that built the city - the myth that is New York. From the late 30s, and well into the 90s, she wandered through poor, working-class neighbourhoods, alert to their incredible life, sensitive to how they pulsed with interaction. She captured evanescent moments of joy and beauty, the pleasure and play of children, men and women, talking, waiting, watching as cultures and communities connected on the street to make and shape the New York we now know. Towards the end of her long life (she died in 2009, aged 95), she lamented that much of what she photographed had vanished. “I go where there’s a lot of activity,” she said. “Children used to be outside. Now the streets are empty. People are indoors looking at television or something.”

You can read and see more about Helen Levitt in the New York Times' obituary for her.

Helen Levitt, New York, c.1940

Helen Levitt / New York City, c 1940

Helen Levitt 1928-2009 New York City (Girl with Lily). From Joshua P. Smith Collection of Photographs

Well Dressed Man on the Streets of New York City, 1940 by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt / NYC (Phone Booth) 1988

Note: All copyright belongs to the artist/owners of the copyrights themselves.

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