Legendary urban life and fashion photographer William Klein has died in Paris at the age of 96, his son told the French news agency AFP on Monday.
A New York-born American who made his name photographing scenes of urban life in the world’s largest cities, Klein studied painting with Fernand Leger but found fame as a photographer.
“Klein is one of those legendary photographers who made his own rules, like Man Ray,” said Alain Genestar, director of the French photography magazine Polka.
Klein, who gained worldwide recognition with his fashion photos for Vogue, was also a painter, graphic designer and documentarian with an ironic and sometimes acid look at his subjects, who always looked directly at their lens.
“People always look at the camera in his photos, because he believed that people’s eyes don’t lie,” Genestar said.
Klein lived most of her adult life in Paris, where her extravagant photographs were adored by the avant-garde art world of the 1960s.
He married a French woman and lived for decades in the same apartment next to the Jardin du Luxembourg, but in a 2014 interview with The Guardian he said he never felt French.
“As a kid, I wanted to be part of the Lost Generation that came to France. Hang out in the Coupole with Picasso and Giacometti,” he told the newspaper.
The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York, where a retrospective of his work closed Monday, noted that Klein’s output had been prodigious, “from his highly inventive photographic studies of New York to , Rome, Moscow and Tokyo to his daring and witty fashion photography”.
He also made celebrity portraits, documentary films on Muhammad Ali and Little Richard, as well as fictional films on the beauty industry, imperialism and consumer culture, the ICP said.
“Few have transformed so many fields of art and culture as William Klein,” wrote the exhibition’s curator, David Campany, in the ICP’s announcement of the show.