Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Helen Levitt, 1913-2009

Untitled#968 Untitled#968
© Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt, an American photographer noted for her black-and-white images of New Yorkers during the 1930s and 1940s, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on March 29. Levitt was 95 years old.

Born in Brooklyn in 1913, Levitt first turned to photography after dropping out of high school in her senior year. Looking for more inspirational activities, she began work as a photography assistant for J. Florian Mitchell in the Bronx.

In the 1930s Levitt began taking photographs of New York street life, including her famous images of sidewalk chalk graffiti and children dressed in Halloween costumes on their front stoop. During this time, she also supported herself as a film editor.

As she became more renowned in the photography world, Levitt had the opportunity to work with many of her favorite photographers, including Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson. In 1938 Levitt helped Evans publish his book, "American Photographs."

Eventually Levitt became a full-time film editor and director. During the 1950s she created several documentaries, including "In the Street," a glimpse into the Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and "The Quiet One," a full-length film about a 10-year-old kid living in an institution for juvenile delinquents.

Over the years Levitt also published several photo collections, including "In the Street," "Mexico City," "Crosstown" and "Here and There." She also spent time working with color film in the 1960s.New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, which began the Helen Levitt Memorial Fund to support acquisition of the mid-20th-century photographs by Levitt and other artists of that era, will be celebrating her life and work at the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery through Aug. 30.