“THE FIRST AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER TO FULLY COMPREHEND THE ESSENCE OF HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON”: FIRST EDITION OF HELEN LEVITT’S A WAY OF SEEING, WITH COMMENTARY BY JAMES AGEE
LEVITT, Helen. A Way of Seeing. Photographs of New York with an Essay by James Agee. New York: Viking, (1965). Oblong octavo, original black cloth, original photographic dust jacket. $3200.
First edition of this timeless collaboration between Levitt and Agee, illustrated with 50 black-and-white photogravures of Levitt’s lyrical and provocative images.
“Helen Levitt was the first American photographer to fully comprehend the essence of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographic message and put it into practice. Like Cartier-Bresson, she understood how to combine intuition and intellect to forge sophisticated, lyrical compositions from commonplace events” (New York Times). According to ArtForum, “Levitt may well be the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time.” “Though it did not see print until 1965, A Way of Seeing, Helen Levitt’s first published collection of photographs was essentially completed in 1948. All the pictures in it had been taken over the previous decade in the streets of Yorkville, Harlem, and the Lower East Side, and many of them had already been on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. James Agee, dead ten years in 1965, had written his essay for the book in 1946… Although Agee may not have been the first writer to apply the word lyrical to Levitt’s marvelously serendipitous images of urban street theater, his essay was for some time their most persuasive critical frame. In this edition, his text literally brackets the 50 photos, which are arranged in an episodic montage-bleak, antic, poignant; sometimes melodramatic, often comic-at once suggestively narrative and as ephemeral as a passing glance” (Roth, 178). Agee, Levitt and photographer Janice Loeb (to whom this book is dedicated) also collaborated on two films: The Quiet One (1948) and In the Street (1952). Icons of Photography, 84. Open Book, 214-15.
Book fine; light edge-wear, slightest dampstaining to spine head of bright, near-fine dust jacket.