An audio interview with Helen Levitt and review of Ways Of Seeing



Several years before her death this year at 95, Helen Levitt gave Sybil Miller a rare interview for Photo-Eye magazine.

(Read the interview here)

To get the full flavour of Helen's personality compare the Real Audio interview by Melissa Block from January 2002 with the Photo-Eye interview.

As far as I know, Helen Levitt rarely gave interviews. This wasn't a reflection on her ability to talk about her work but more do with what kind of person she was. A kind of straight talking, very smart visually aware person - who didn't need (as the Sybil Miller interview shows) or want the baggage of excess verbiage to validate or in any way bolster the evidence provided by her photographs.

And what photographs they were. Whether you l0ok at her black and white work as collected in her first major book 'Ways of Seeing' or the later collections of colour photography.

What is especially interesting to me, given my recent experience creating my first book of photographs, is just how different her work could appear with fairly minor modifications to sequencing and layout.

The essay on Ways of Seeing (above) shows how a work could be tweaked and made to read in quite different ways in the hands of different publishers or editors over a period of time. One does wonder though - quite what role the photographer played in these 'improvements' though?

As a recommendation of current works of hers, I would strongly recommend the german edition of Helen Levitt - which features as good a selection of black and white and colour work as I've ever seen and with the kind of reproduction that has to be seen to be believed.
My highest recommendation to this book - which has very little german text in it - but including James Agee's infamous forward.

James Agee's text to Ways of Seeing follows:
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