Aware: William Klein

“A contact sheet is like a madeleine. Brings back every single detail.” – William Klein.

William Klein an American born French photographer and filmmaker.  He was trained as a painter then moved to photography.  He was famous for not caring much about the rules in photography at his time.  He would shoot close with his wide angle producing grainy, blurry and sometimes high contrast photographs.  Things that were considered a taboo in the old days.  He ends up with interesting photographs that seek the sense of the place regardless of the technique.

However, some of Klein’s photographs are either posed or taken after an interaction with the person he is photographing which makes some of his photographs fall under the category of the “aware”.  He would explain: “Why pretend the camera isn’t there? Why not use it? Maybe people will reveal themselves as violent or tender, crazed or beautiful. But in some way, they reveal who they are. They’ll have taken a self-portrait”.

Examples are the photographs below:


© William Klein


© William Klein

Eric Kim explains looking at Klein’s contact sheet of the shot of the boy pointing the gun at Klein, you can see the next photograph the kid is smiling and posing with one of his friends (below):


© William Klein

Klein kept a photographic diary after returning to New York.  He would capture the everyday life by always having his camera with him.

Klein made a name for himself and his style of photography by twisting the rules of photography.

Bibliography / References:

Carlo Traina.  Masters of Street Photography  – William KLein [online].  Available from:  [Accessed 22 August, 2016].

Eric Kim.  5 Lessons William Klein Has Taught Me About Street Photography [online]. Available from: [Accessed 22 August, 2016].

Sarah Moroz.  William Klein: ‘My pictures showed everything I resented about America’ [online]. Available from:  [Accessed 22 August, 2016].

Taylor Prewitt.  William Klein Helped Invent Gritty Street Photography by Breaking the Rules [online].  Available from:  [Accessed 22 August, 2016].



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