HELEN LEVITT | Selections from the Sack Photographic Trust

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA
Floor 3
18 Mar 2023
The photographs of Helen Levitt (b. 1913, New York; died 2009, New York) look almost exclusively at activity transpiring in public spaces of New York City, including spontaneous sandlot baseball games, masked Halloween revelry, and impromptu dance parties. Through her lens, sidewalks and stoops transform into makeshift stages for a cast of urban players — many of whom are children. Teeming with life, her photographs capture imaginative moments of play and animated alliances that would be lost to time if not for her astute eye and quick shutter release. Yet sentimentality has no place in her images, and unlike her peers of the 1930s and 1940s, she does not focus on the dire social conditions of the era. Instead, Levitt was drawn to the rhythmic beauty of urban life. Elegant, balletic, and anti-monumental, her photographs encourage an awareness of the poetic richness of the quotidian as well as the fleeting nature of life.