New York Love Song

Helen Levitt's Lyrical Photos

Helen Levitt. New York City, 1939.

BY: Jes Zurell

Few cities in the world receive as many artistic tributes as New York, New York. Roughly 3,800 songs hit the charts, marking time to the city that doesn’t sleep. Countless painters, sculptors, and performers. Infinite strokes of genius.

But we’re willing to bet that today, no creative medium gets off to the beat of the Big Apple as much as photography–and it’s impossible to celebrate those images without toasting to Helen Levitt.

Helen Levitt: Five Decades opened at Laurence Miller Gallery in New York on November 8 and runs through December 22, 2018. The show features vintage prints gifted by Levitt to James Agee and his family in throughout the 20th century.

Levitt met James Agee in 1938, and the two hit it off immediately; the two were mutually inspired by each other’s perspective of New York. In 1946, Agee authored an essay about Levitt’s work for her book, A Way of Seeing, and while we don’t know the true depths to which their relationship reached (Agee was married with children), he lusted after her work as though it was warm and curved to the touch.

In the introduction to A Way of Seeing, he wrote, “At least a dozen of Helen Levitt’s photographs seem to me as beautiful, perceptive, satisfying, and enduring as any lyrical work I know.”

Come on, darling. Dance with us to Levitt’s love song to New York.

Two boys sitting on a curb in New York
Helen Levitt. New York, 1944.

 

Boys playing on a street corner
Helen Levitt. New York, 1938.

 

Mother and child in Brooklyn by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1945.

 

Woman in an apartment window, by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1972.

 

Women at a hot dog stand in New York, by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1971.

 

Woman in makeup and jewelry in the Bronx, by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1971.

 

Two children in a window New York 1930s by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1939.

 

Boy playing game in front of stairs, by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1945.

 

Young men in meatpacking district 1970s Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1971.

 

Boys play on roof unattended in New York City, Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1939.

 

Boys play on sidewalk in New York by Helen Levitt
Helen Levitt. New York, 1940.