William Klein
13 min
France 1957

“Each evening, in the centre of New York, an artificial day rises. Its purpose is to announce spectacles, sell products, and the producers of these adverts would be amazed to know that the most fascinating spectacle, the most precious product made by them, is the very street transformed by their signs.” [From preface to the film]

American photographer William Klein temporarily gave up photography to produce his first film Broadway by Light in 1957 — a film brimming with pop sensibilities. A night-time tour of the streets of Manhattan; a rhythmic abstraction of Times Square, the signs, the lights, the advertising, the spectacle.

William Klein
(1928) USA

William Klein is a photographer, sculptor and filmmaker. Though born in New York City and educated at City College of New York, Klein has been predominantly active in France since he enrolled at the Sarbonne, Paris in 1948. In 1954 Alexander Liberman, the American Vogue art director, was struck by Klein's work and which lead to regular work for Vogue and the publication of the groundbreaking book, New York. The book was a scandal, shocking the establishment for its raw and uncompromising view of the city. Rejected by American publishes, the book was finally published in France in 1956 and won Klein the Prix Nadar in 1956. From this point on he worked regularly for Vogue until 1965 when he abandoned photography to concentrate on film. From 1965 up till the early 1980s he directed a number of feature films, including the 1966 film Who Are You, Polly Magoo? and the anti-American satire Mr. Freedom, the documentary portrait Muhammad Ali the Greatest (1964-79) and most recently The Messiah (1999). In the 1980s Klein returned to photography, due in part to the renewed interest in his early work and continued to create a diverse range of work combining photography, film, painting and drawing. His work has been celebrated with retrospectives in New York, London and Tokyo as well as large scale surveys of his entire output, most recently at the Center Pompidou, Paris in 2005.

Broadway By Light, William Klein, France 1957Broadway By Light, William Klein, France 1957Broadway By Light, William Klein, France 1957Broadway By Light, William Klein, France 1957

William Klein, Broadway by Light, France, 1957 © Courtesy of the artist / Argos Films

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