• William Klein Tokyo

    William Klein Tokyo

  • William Klein Tokyo

    William Klein Tokyo

  • William Klein Tokyo

    William Klein Tokyo

William Klein: Tokyo

Members only article

William Klein’s lasting legacy to photography will be his four city books New York (1956), Rome (1959), Tokyo and Moscow (both 1964).

They are long out of print but with reputations growing by the year they are now more talked about than actually seen. This is about to change as republication of the first two is imminent. New York in particular is regularly lauded as one of the great photographic achievements of the last century. Its visceral imagery and endlessly inventive layout was a groundbreaking form of hyper-journalism melding the spirits of dada, Pop, abstract expressionism and counter-cinema to dizzying effect. If it had been published in America it might now be as over-celebrated as Robert Frank’s The Americans, issued two years later. Even so its influence has been considerable. A number of Japanese photographers (including a young Daido Moriyama) were bowled over by its energy and graphic daring. I think Klein got better and his later books built on the achievement of New York. Tokyo is my favourite, not least because it sees Klein returning to the city whose photographic culture he helped to revolutionize. In 1964 it was the largest city on earth and the world’s media were about to descend to cover the Olympic Games. Three years later James Bond arrived in You Only Live Twice, sealing a popular iconography for Tokyo that barely seems to have changed. Klein’s version incorporates every Tokyo cliché but in pushing them to breaking point it soars above them too.

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Published in Photoworks issue 13, 2009
Commissioned by Photoworks

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