William Klein (American, b. April 19, 1928) is a photographer best known for incorporating unusual elements into his photographs and videos. Born in New York, he grew up as a Jewish boy in an area where anti-Semitism was common. He turned to art at a young age as a way to escape from his peers. He frequently visited the Museum of Modern Art, and he studied at the City College of New York before enlisting in the Army. In 1948, he left the United States and traveled to France, where he studied at the Sorbonne under Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955).
After marrying Jeanne Florin, Klein started to work in the Abstract genre. He later gained inspiration from Mondrian (Dutch, 1872–1944) and the Bauhaus movement that was sweeping Europe. Klein started creating murals, which gained him attention from Angelo Mangiarotti (Italian, b.1921). The two collaborated on several projects while Klein worked for Domus, an Italian architecture magazine. Klein moved back to New York in the 1950s and started working as a photographer. He experimented with new techniques, which created unusual shading, odd angles, and other new elements on the finished images.
Klein met Alexander Liberman (Russian-American, 1912–1999), and the two began a partnership. Klein shot a number of fashion photographs for Vogue, the magazine for which Liberman worked. Klein created a series of images that showed New York as a dark and shocking place. When no one would publish the photos, he turned the images into the book New York. He later published the photographic books Rome, Moscow, and Tokyo. Klein turned to film in the 1980s, creating the works Broadway By Light, Who Are You Polly Maggoo?, and The Messiah. He used the same unusual camera angles and techniques in shooting his movies. Klein later abandoned film work and returned to photography. He exhibited his work at Piccolo Teatro and Galleria il Milione in Milan, the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York, the Pushkin Museum in Moscow, and the Jane Jackson Gallery in Atlanta, GA. The British Film Institute in London ran a retrospective of his film work in 1997. Klein currently lives in Paris, France, where he continues to work on his art.