“MATCHLESS, A TIME BOMB THAT’S NEVER BEEN DEFUSED… RAW, KINETIC AND UTTERLY ORIGINAL”: LIFE IS GOOD AND GOOD FOR YOU IN NEW YORK, INSCRIBED BY WILLIAM KLEIN
KLEIN, William. Life is Good and Good For You in New York. (London: Photography Magazine, 1956). Quarto, original black cloth, original pamphlet bookmark attached by cord to spine, photographic endpapers. $2500.
First English edition of Klein’s magnum opus, one of the most celebrated photographic books of the 20th century, with 188 black-and-white photogravures and original 16-page booklet, inscribed in gray magic marker on the table of contents page, “Happy New York, William Klein.”
“William Klein, a native New Yorker, had been living and painting in Paris for six years when Alexander Liberman, the art director of Vogue, invited the 26-year-old expatriate artist to return to the states as a graphic design assistant at the magazine. ‘I felt like a Macy’s balloon floating back after a million orbits,’ Klein wrote later of his 1954 arrival. ‘All the sights and sounds I missed or had forgotten or never even knew suddenly moved me very much.’ Klein never took that job at Vogue, but Liberman gave him the occasional portrait assignment and convinced Conde Nast to pick up the expenses while Klein set off to capture those sights in an eight-month photographic ‘diary on what it felt like to be at home.’ ‘I had a peculiar kind of double vision,’ he wrote, ‘one eye almost Parisian, the other an incorrigible wise-ass New Yorker.’ That combination of sophistication and rudeness served him well… he simply didn’t know how to take a conventional picture. Improvising, thriving on accidents and surprise, Klein turned out raw, kinetic and utterly original photographs-each one a gut reaction to the energy and excitement of the city street… Published in France, Italy, and England, but not in America, Life is Good was a sensation… No two pages were alike; full-bleed images were followed by white-bordered pictures set on black pages; a stack of small photos was set next to a shot so big it straddled the gutter… Klein went on to make similarly splashy books on Rome, Tokyo and Moscow, as well as the inevitable films, but New York remains matchless, a time bomb that’s never been defused” (Roth, 140-41). “William Klein’s magnum opus… this greatest of 1950s photobooks by a native American was never published in the United States… New York is a quintessential monument to the American cultural scene of the 1950s… It is the upside to Robert Frank’s downside” as captured in The Americans (Parr & Badger, 235-6, 243). This first English edition was preceded by the first French edition, published earlier the same year. Text in English and French. Without scarce original dust jacket. Open Book, 164.