Exhibit | Helen Levitt: Twists and Turns

NYC, 1940, Photograph ©Helen Levitt, Courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Helen Levitt was a New York original. Born in 1913, she grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. After dropping out of high school, she went to work for a commercial photographer. In 1937, she purchased a camera and began taking photographs of the world around her to glorious effect, documenting the streets and sidewalks of her native land for more than six decades.

With her eye trained on the children of New York, Levitt’s work has become some of the most iconic examples of twentieth-century street photography. James Agee once observed of Levitt’s work, “The overall preoccupation in the photographs is, it seems to me, with innocence—not as the word has come to be misunderstood and debased, but in its full, original wildness, fierceness, and instinct for grace and form.”

NYC, 1942, Photograph ©Helen Levitt, Courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

A selection of some of her most celebrated images is now on view in “Helen Levitt: Twists and Turns” at Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, through February 27, 2016. Featuring both Levitt’s black and white and color work, “Twists and Turns” presents a selection of images that reveal Levitt’s sense of humor, gift for timing, and sensitivity to every day life.

Levitt’s intuitive ability to capture the unfettered spirit of youth is evident in the intensity of her work, as she worked without the agenda of her contemporaries such as social documentary photographers like Walker Evans. As Levitt observed, “I never had a ‘project.’ I would go out and shoot, follow my eyes—what they noticed, I tried to capture with my camera, for others to see.”

NYC, 1972, Photograph ©Helen Levitt, Courtesy of Laurence Miller Gallery, New York

Her gift for reading body language and emotional nuance imbues Levitt’s photographs with a dazzling iconography of human experience, pathos, and comedy. She observed, “It would be mistaken to suppose that any of the best photography is come at by intellection; it is like all art, essentially the result of an intuitive process, drawing on all that the artist is rather than on anything he thinks, far less theorizes about.”

Levitt once observed, “Since I’m inarticulate, I express myself with images.” It is this knowledge of self that has made her one of the greatest of all time. Each photograph becomes a poem, an ode, an epic meditation on the reality of life. In a Helen Levitt photograph, we see the world as it is, not as we fantasize or fear, but simply as we live.


Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.

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