Room 8: Living theatre The post-war era

Between 1945 and 1968, street photography flourished as never before. Photographers such as Robert Doisneau, Garry Winogrand, Helen Levitt and William Klein sought to capture the poetry of everyday life, finding joy in the peculiarly urban choreography of people, matter and imagery. Doisneau often staged his anecdotal pictures, sometimes using actors, but other photographers preferred a more intuitive approach. ‘I would take long daily walks with my camera, leaving myself open to whatever happened around me’, explained Louis Stettner. ‘Each photograph was a way of reaching out, an act of discovery.’

Lee Miller László Bardossy, Fascist ex-Prime Minister of Hungary, Facing the Firing Squad Budapest, Hungary 1946

Fashion photography also took to the streets. Magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar commissioned innovative street-based fashion shoots, with an exceptionally creative interaction between design, graphics, layout and photography. Paris Vogue commissioned William Klein’s vibrant arrangements in the street, as well as Irving Penn’s studio photographs of everyday tradespeople.

Studio photography flourished in parts of Africa. In Malick Sidibé’s studio in Bamako, Mali, young people posed playfully with their new possessions. These images show the euphoria of life after independence and the development of an African popular culture influenced by the west. Street photography was rarer in Africa. However, David Goldblatt has documented street life in South Africa for over fifty years. His images of black and white citizens of Johannesburg look as if they might have been taken in New York, belying the reality of the Apartheid regime.

David Goldblatt From On Eloff Street Johannesburg, South Africa 1966–7, printed 2008

Street & Studio Other works in Room 8

Street and Studio; past exhibition at Tate Modern, room guide

See also

Tate Modern Exhibition

William Klein + Daido Moriyama

10 Oct 2012 – 20 Jan 2013
Tate Modern exhibition William Klein + Daido Moriyama explores relationship between both men’s work. 10 October 2012 - 20 January 2013