Women in Photography: Helen Levitt (1913-2009)

“Halloween.” One of Helen Levitt’s most celebrated photographs of all time.

“Halloween.” One of Helen Levitt’s most celebrated photographs of all time.

Born a Russian-Jewish immigrant in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn (1913 – 2009), Helen Levitt was a New York City photographer and has been described as one of the most celebrated and least known of her time. Levitt’s work, often playful and candid comprised of the city’s street activities, people going about their day, family pets and children. She loved photographing children and particularly the chalk drawings that they had left behind on sidewalks and city streets. Documenting the chalky ephemera left by kids was in fact how she got her start in photography and ultimately resulted in work published in 1987 as In The Street: Chalk Drawings and Messages, New York City 1938–1948.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Levitt continued to take her camera to working class neighborhoods to capture her beloved streets of New York City. She documented life in the Garment District, East Harlem and the Lower East Side and honored the people and its ever-changing city surroundings through her poetic photo journalism.

In 1939, one of Levitt’s most widely-known photographs, Halloween, was selected as an integral part of MoMA’s newly launched photography exhibition. It was only a few years later (1943) when she would present her first solo exhibit at the renowned museum receiving a spotlight she so deserved.

Below, some of Levitt’s striking black and white images and color photography works.

We hope you are as inspired as we are to shoot our beloved city’s streets and its amazing cast of characters that makes this place truly unique.

SUMMER TO-DO LIST: June 27-July 2, 2015

Summer is officially here, so we're rounding up our fave photo-friendly events every Friday this summer in our weekly TO-DO LIST

Saturday June 27

  • There's no party like an art party, and you have a couple of options this Saturday. First, warm up at MoMA PS1's first Warm Up music series, a dance party at the great Queens art space.
  • There will also be a fun time to be had at the Gowanus Darkroom, where our very own Justin Lin will be serving up jams while you buy prints and explore the space. 
  • Another totally unique and quintessentially Brooklyn option is to create your own water tower! The Brooklyn Historical Society has put together this fun, late afternoon drink-and-art event.

Sunday June 28

  • Fresh after the announcement of national marriage equality, Pride in NYC will be bigger and more exciting than ever. Sunday's parade will be the place to be. Find yourself a spot to watch and cheer and bring a camera because there will be unlimited photo ops. Commemorate this event on film, and then take our Crash Course: Darkroom Basics class to see all of the photos you captured.  

Monday June 29

Tuesday June 30

Thursday July 2

  • Looking to add a whole new layer to your photography approach? Getting into the studio might be the thing you need. Learn all about lighting indoors for professional portraits and product shoots with our Field Guide IV: The Studio class.

Got any other suggestions for fun summer activities?  Post em in the comments below!

There's Something About Film.

There is still an ongoing dialogue about which is the superior approach to photography: film or digital. Those who shoot film are often passionate in their position, while digital users can give you a list of reasons why their path is the way to go.

We stumbled upon this article via Bird In Flight, in which they gathered the most common arguments on both sides and, in collaboration with photographer Roman Pashkovskiy, conducted an experiment to demonstrate the differences between digital and film. To do this, they compared photos taken under the same conditions on two cameras with similar characteristics: the digital Nikon D800 and the film Nikon F100 (both with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens).  

BKC celebrates the strengths of both; that's why we provide classes in each format.  Our analog classesare awesome reminders of the magical process that film provides a photographer. Shooting film requires a very thought-out approach; with the limits of the roll and the lack of an instant display, one must compose his or her image with great intention. You definitely invest in your photographs with film, and the darkroom process provides a very special way to lay claim to the images you've captured.

If you're ready to learn the process of shooting and developing film for the first time--or maybe you want to re-learn the process from way back when--sign up for our Analog Film Lab class! Starting today and going for 48 hours, you can save 20% off any of our analog classes with the promo code ANALOG20!