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Show and Tell: Helen Levitt

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During the three long days of the transit strike, it may have seemed like all New York was in the streets. But Helen Levitt wasn’t tempted to join them. For the retired 92-year-old photographer, it’s the quality, not quantity, of street life that counts. “It’s not interesting to take pictures of people going places. You have to go to neighborhoods where they’re standing still or sitting,” she says. These never-before-published photographs (see slideshow) evoke a time when more New Yorkers stood still, when the city was dirtier and more dysfunctional but also sleepier: better for loafing. The images—many from the sixties and seventies—are collected in a new book, Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt (powerHouse), and some will be shown at powerHouse Gallery beginning February 16. So, what else has changed? “Today people don’t want to be photographed,” says Levitt. “Some of them are anxious about it. One of the last times I was in the East Village, somebody wanted to burn my camera.”


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