Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

« JuliennesMainHelmut Newton »

Helen Levitt

413 words on

It’s always the same story: Some exhibition opens nearby. You pass half of its running time without even knowing about it, then you start planning to go and don’t make it before the last weekend. Which is exactly what happened for the exhibition of photos by Helen Levitt in Hannover’s Sprengel-Museum (which is a surprisingly large museum with many many rooms of modern art in its regular exhibition as well, all hiding in a modest looking modern building right at the Maschsee).

Mrs Levitt is big in street photography and her photos are more documenting places, people and moments than aiming to be beautiful. Generally her photos look a bit rougher than those of Cartier-Bresson (with whom she also worked), say, as they lack that aesthetic of beauty and ‘magic’ and look more natural. She’s particularly good taking photos of kids in the street. Which, with photos from the thirties, forties and fifties highlights many differences to the way kids in the streets look these days. Quite a few of the photos shown were ‘vintage’ silver-gelatin prints and looked great.

Which isn’t to say that the modern black and white prints looked bad. What did look bad, however, were many of the new ‘C-Print’ prints of her colour photos they had. To me those looked like poorly done inkjet prints – more pixelish than grainy, as if some bit of bad digital technology stood in the path of their creation. Just a few of the colour prints were done using a more artistic printing technique (NAME????) and looked much better. That said, many of the colour prints were from the 1980s. And OMG! the 1980s were ugly as hell anyway – particularly in colour –, so the look of a poor inkjet print can’t ruin things much.

To top things off, they also screened Mrs Levitt’s short film In the Street from the 1940s with many scenes from the streets of New York back then. Again, this has many kids in it who are playing, teasing and running around. The whole film is made with a great sense of humour which had us laugh a number of times be it for containing little evil deeds by the kids filmed or a woman picking her nose while walking down the street. Despite being that cheeky at times, the film never seemed to expose the people in it and showed more respect for them than you expect when coming from today’s reality-TV and YouTube world.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

June 1, 2008, 16:26

Tagged as photos.

Add your comment

« JuliennesMainHelmut Newton »

Comments on




This page

Out & About

pinboard Links


Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.