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Photographs of Irwin Klein,   Color Work 1972-1974

   

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Last Look: The Color Photographs of Irwin Klein (1933-1974)” is the second half of our show for this gifted artist whose life was cut short when on March 20, 1974, when he died after suffering a tragic fall from his apartment window in Brooklyn.  Following his death, all of his negatives, cameras and equipment, as well as most of his printed work, were either lost or stolen.  All that remains today are a very limited number of black and white vintage prints in addition to a small collection of color slides.  Taken in the last weeks of his life as he walked along the streets near his home, these color images are reproduced here for the first time.  

For the viewer, the photographs offer a disturbing glimpse into the Brooklyn neighborhoods in which Irwin spent the last few years of his life.  Graffiti-riddled buildings, debris-strewn streets, and shuttered doors and windows provide a backdrop of seemingly inescapable poverty against which he captures the images of local residents.
For Irwin, however, it was a world he loved and desperately wanted others to see and appreciate, to look beyond the landscape and see the people, not their surroundings.  In the weeks leading up to his death, Irwin had been in deep despair, obsessing over the state of the country, including the ongoing war in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal. Always politically and socially active, Irwin was quoted by friends as saying that while the problems of the country seemed insurmountable, the beauty of life lies just outside our window. 

These images, never before seen by the public, take us on a last journey with Irwin as he makes an effort to photograph the beauty of which he spoke, imbued within the people of his neighborhood, and the promise he knew it held.  

Today, more than 35 years later, the areas Irwin photographed bear little resemblance to the neighborhood that Irwin knew.   Luxury coops, neighborhood restaurants, cafes and art galleries have replaced the vacant lots and crumbling buildings.   The faces of its residents no longer reflect poverty and want, but prosperity and affluence.  If Irwin had lived to see the Brooklyn of today he would probably say that little had changed.  For Irwin, beauty lies not in the landscape itself, but in the people who bring it alive.