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In 1938 Helen Levitt (1913-2009) accompanied Walker Evans on a project to photograph passengers on the New York subway. Soon she was taking her own pictures. More empathetic and informal than Evans’, Levitt’s finest photographs are the product of her willingness to participate as a fellow citizen, not as a photographer setting herself apart. The disarming ease of Levitt’s pictures quickly accrues into an undeniably singular attitude to both the medium and the world.
Around 1978–a full four decades after her first foray–Levitt returned to the New York subway, by which time public behavior on the subway was visibly less formal. She seems to have picked up exactly where she had left off in 1938, but in general her photography was even less restricted–more in keeping with her looser street photographs. This is the most comprehensive publication of Helen Levitt’s photographs from the New York subway, many of which are published here for the first time.