Must See: Helen Levitt’s Photography



New York City has never looked cleaner, brighter and friendlier to me. And I have loved seeing it clean itself up right in front of my eyes. My childhood memories of New York City, during the seventies and eighties, is that of graffiti and grittiness. I never thought I would miss it.

And yet… and yet, I was reminded yesterday of how much I really do. A book of photographs taken by the renowned Helen Levitt showed that me that.


I was introduced to Helen Levitt’s work when I arrived home from the hospital with my newborn son in 2003. Waiting for us in my newborn’s son bedroom was a framed picture of perhaps Helen Levitt’s most recognizable photograph, Broken Mirror.


Helen Levitt became famous for her poignantly candid photographs of New York City’s young children playing in the street of the Lower East Side or Harlem. Through her art you can see the development of New York City life as a child during the 1930s up through the 1980s. It captures a time when New York City children really played outside on the streets. Her photos are a fifty-year photographic retrospective of New York City children.

Think about how amazing that is.

(See that first photo up top? That could have been nine year old me. I was always in the streets playing. Balls were always rolling under cars and there we would go searching for them. I learned not to touch the shiny hub caps and bumpers, because sometimes they would be very hot to the touch from the blazing sun.)

Helen Levitt

I had always thought my favorite Helen Levitt photos were those of the children from the 1940s, but looking through her collection today I realized how much I love her photos from the seventies and eighties. They really capture a city that no longer exists other than in my memories and, luckily for us, forever in Helen’s photos.



Photo source: Laurence Miller Gallery

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Isabel Kallman
Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

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