William Klein (born in New York, New York, USA, on April 19, 1928) is a photographer and filmmaker noted to for his ironic approach to both media and his extensive use of unusual photographic techniques in the context of photojournalism and fashion photography. He was ranked 25th on Professional Photographer’s Top 100 Most influencial photographers.
Though American by birth, Klein has lived and worked in France since his late teens. His work has sometimes been openly critical of American society and foreign policy; the film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum once wrote that Klein’s 1968 satire Mr. Freedom was “conceivably the most anti-American movie ever made.”
Klein was born in New York, New York, on April 19, 1928, into a poor Jewish family. Klein graduated from high school early and enrolled at the City College of New York at the age of 14 to study sociology. Klein joined the US Army and was stationed in Germany and later France, where he would permanently settle after being discharged. In 1948, Klein enrolled at the Sorbonne, and later studied with Fernand Léger. At the time, Klein was interested in abstract painting and sculpture. In 1952, Klein had two successful solo exhibitions in Milan and began a collaboration with the architect Angelo Mangiarotti. Klein also experimented with kinetic art, and it was at an exhibition of his kinetic sculptures that he met Alexander Liberman, the art director for Vogue.
In 1966, Klein directed his first feature film, Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? He has since directed many others, including the cinéma vérité documentary Grands soirs et petits matins, the 1969 documentary Muhammad Ali: The Greatest, and the satires Mr. Freedom and Le Couple Témoin. A long time tennis fan, in 1982 he directed The French, a documentary on the French Open tennis championship at Roland-Garros.