Born in New York in 1928, at the age of 20 William Klein went to Paris to study under Fernand Leger, who encouraged his students to reject conformity and the traditional gallery, and go out and work on the streets; this was possibly the making of Klein as an innovative and ground-breaking photographer. After getting married, he decided to remain in Paris, where he still lives and works today. As an artist using photography, during the early 1950’s Klein set out to re-invent the photographic document. His photographs were often blurred or out of focus, and his deliberately over-exposed negatives, the use of high-grain film and experimenting with wide angled lenses shocked the established order of the photography world. Following on from his street work, Klein preferred to photograph his models out in on location and, not particularly interested in clothes or fashion, used this opportunity to introduce new techniques to fashion photography that are still used today, including the use of wide-angle and long-focus lenses, long exposures combined with flash and multiple exposures.
Prizes in the 1990’s included the Hasselblad Prize and the Agfa-Bayer/Hugo Erfurt Prize and also during this time he created ‘In & Out of Fashion’, a mixed media project including drawings, photographs and film, which was published simultaneously with shows in London, Paris and New York. In 1997 he re-photographed New York and had shows in Barcelona and Paris. In 1999 he was awarded the ‘Medal of the Century’ by the royal photographic society’ in London.
Klein’s work has been shown in major venues across the world including the Museum of Modern Art de la Ville, Paris and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Recent solo exhibitions have included the Galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan (2000); the Scottish National Gallery (1999); FNAC, Paris (1999); Pushkine Museum, Moscow (1997) and Hamilton’s Gallery, London (1997).