Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Driving Ms. Levitt

Helen Levitt passed away this past weekend. She was 95. I had the pleasure a few years back of driving her to the school I was attending so that she could lecture that day and discuss her work. I eagerly volunteered to meet her at her home in New York and return her there that same evening even though it meant a total of 8 hours of driving in one day. I wish I had a dramatic story to tell about our drives. That we got a flat and she helped change the tire or something like that. In fact it was a series of fairly ordinary and pleasant 2 hour drives. She talked a bit about her childhood and how she often vacationed with family and friends during the summers in the Catskill Mountains. We discussed photography and Walker Evans and James Agee and it was evident how proud she was of her association with them and how committed she was to the kind of work that she did. She was flummoxed by still life and staged photography and bothered by the idea that artists would mistakenly waste their energy trying to make things up when this extraordinary world existed right outside their door. "The world is a better artist then any one person could ever be." The idea of being open to the world and making pictures as you experienced the world in front of you was something that was being greatly challenged in the early 90's. It still is. And I imagine that some decades from know, when all the best photographs of the last one hundred years are sorted out, there on the top of the pile, will be the great and greater pictures given to us by Helen Levitt.

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1 comment:

smithy said...

Godspeed, and nice send off.