Many of us work in a particular trade not because we are passionate about what we do, but simply as a means of putting food on the table. That’s the case with William Klein, who is considered one of the world’s most influential photographers. When Women’s Wear Daily’s Rosemary Feitelberg asked him about fashion – an industry where his photographs have made a major impact – he said, “I couldn’t care less. I did it for money and for also the possibilities of developing my skills technically.”
Klein, an artist who is also a noted filmmaker, painter, and graphic designer, had no qualms about biting the hand that feeds him, however, in his interview with WWD during the opening of his exhibit, “William Klein: Paintings, Etc.” at New York City’s Howard Greenberg gallery. “In the late Fifties and early Sixties, I used to think that most of these fashion creators weren’t that great and if the photograph was good, it was mostly thanks to the photographer. The photographers had more talent than the designers – people like Guy Laroche or [Pierre] Balmain,” he told WWD. “There are so many designers jerking off in the fashion world, I could do without 99 percent of them.”
Besides fashion, Klein also talked about his photographic work in general – from his start in street photography in the 1950s to the techniques he uses to capture his photos. When asked about a work he is most proud of, it wasn’t fashion related, naturally. “I did a film on Muhammad Ali before he was champion. I was there when he became champion in 1964. I was happy to be able to document the development of a real American hero,” he said.
Read more of Klein’s candid interview at WWD.
(Image “Models Backstage,” from the 1966 film “Who Are you Polly Maggoo?” Photo by William Klein, via WWD)