Street photographer. Documentary filmmaker. Painter. Fiction filmmaker. Abstract photographer. Writer. Fashion photographer. Illustrator. Maker of books. Designer of exhibitions. To have made original and influential work in just one of these fields would have been enough to secure William Klein a place in any canon of the visual arts. To have succeeded in them all, on his own terms, and to have sustained a creative output for over six decades, is remarkable.
For a long time, Klein was known as either a fashion photographer or a street photographer or a filmmaker. That is to say, different audiences knew and valued different aspects of his work. Only in recent years has the scope of his achievements begun to be recognized. Versatility runs against the idea that artistic significance is based on single themes and recurring preoccupations. Today, however, it is accepted that the artists who ranged freely and avoided specialism are key to understanding the culture of the last century.