“Somebody turned one of the panels when I was shooting on a long exposure, and when I developed the photographs this already abstract shape was a beautiful blur. That blur was a revelation. I thought, here’s a way of talking about life. Through photography, you can really talk about what you see around you. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”
He often said he had little or no interest in the clothes.
As he was cycling around, “trying to find all these places I’d read about in books”, he saw a woman who literally stopped him in his tracks. “She was the most beautiful girl I ever saw,” he says, his eyes lighting up, “I just had to go over and chat her up. She was all smiles, so I asked her out.” She said yes, and they were together for more than 50 years. His wife, Jeanne Florin, died in 2005. “Everything I did, I did for her,” he told a recent interviewer.
“When I started painting the contacts, it was all brush strokes and jubilation. The jubilation of painting recalled the celebration of taking the photo. For me, taking a photo was a celebration, was physical and gave me a super charge.”
Klein invented his own kind of visual jazz – violent, vulgar, seductive and beautiful, with a soundtrack to match. The camera moves ceaselessly in and out of the alphabet of signs as the bulbs bloom and fade into abstract blobs of pure colour: Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Rock Hudson, The New York Times. Fascination. Continuous till 4am. Orson Welles said it was the first film in which “colour was necessary”.
At Tate Modern until 20th January 2013.