21st Apr 2018
This is one of William Klein’s most famous images, taken from his seminal book of street photography, Life is Good & Good for You in New York (1956). The book had been his personal side project while his fashion work for Vogue magazine paid the bills. Klein had travelled back to New York from Paris in 1954 to take up a position at Vogue, invited by the magazine’s famous art director, Alexander Liberman. However Klein’s principal motivation for the move was the opportunity to work on the book project. Once published in 1956 it became one of the most influential photography books of the twentieth century. Its brash, technically radical photographs altered the rules of photography and influenced future generations of photographers including, famously, the Japanese photographic icon, Daido Moriyama.
William Klein said of this particular image: “… This seems to be considered my key image… it’s fake violence, a parody. I asked the boy to point the gun at me and then look tough. He did, and then we both laughed… [I see it] as a double self-portrait. I was both the street kid trying to look tough, and the timid, good little boy on the right.”