As he abhorred lies and staging, William Klein spared nothing and no one of his frank verb, his sharp eye, an eye that joshes, fights and fights. Hostile to courtiers, codes, and concessions, he stood out of the field, standing and alone, as are free men, in the vanguard. This intransigence with reality, this obstinacy to bring down the mask of words and things, he had contracted it as a child by the errors of a father, a ruined stock trader, who had taken from him his capacity for illusion and idolatry. And any American dream hope.

The reversal of the paternal will have inspired a revolted work, destined to strip by all means and without restraint the shortcomings of society. Precursor of Pop Art, in Life is Good and Good for you in New York, William Klein showed its open mouths and nothingness, transcribed its wanderings and neons in the short film Broadway by Light. Injustice and inequality, he held them at risk with raw photos of poor children, smiling or armed, who resemble him, or with his Cassius, the Great, a brilliant film, a unique document about Olympic champion Muhammad Ali, a brilliant and graceful boxer, but uncontrollable and flamboyant, thus reprobated by this frightened America. Unlike William Klein. Who, in the plane to Florida where he will attend the famous heavyweight world championship of February 1964, is not afraid to sit in the empty seat next to the sulphurous leader of the black movement, Malcolm X. If the latter is surprised with humor that a New-JewYorkais settled in France moves to film a black boxer in Miami, it is that he still does not know what the artist has in common with the black boxer in question, or with him: the radical commitment and the sense of history.

It is in the revolutionary ferment that he feels in his place, whether in that of the Big evenings and small mornings of May 1968, or the Pan-African Festival of July 1969, in Algiers, where he films great figures of the struggles of independence such as the singer Miriam Makeba and mounts a file in images and charges against colonization. In 1970, he continued his insurrectionary campaign with Elridge Cleaver, Black Panther. For the filmmaker, the background of the air is red, as for Chris Marker who published in France these photos of Americans that the Americans did not want, while they would praise two years later those of the Swiss photographer Robert Frank.

His country of origin, left young because he saw himself a painter in Paris, ignores him and wounds him. But the Parisian workshops he attends, the first, too academic, of André Lhote or the second, enriching and exciting, of his only master, Fernand Léger, he quickly abandons them, at 23, «Because it bothered me, even at Léger’s, to be in school with our easels around a still life». He is definitely not a man of interior, but a man of situation, who goes where the reality convulses, an artist who splits, disturbs, seeks the real outside.

While painting geometric abstractions, he naturally shifts to the photo he practices in the street, going into contact with a Leica won at poker, provoking, risking towards the other to make the photo happen.

As a fashion photographer, a universe he will mock in Who are you, Polly Maggoo?, it upsets the codes and favors unexpected shootings in the street.

Photographer of life and cities which he shows without modesty - this is his trademark - the humanity of the inhabitants, he criss-crossed Rome where he began the cinema with Fellini, laughed with Pasolini, and got bored with Moravia, Then he seized and let himself be seized by Moscow and Tokyo. But Paris, where he had taken up residence after the war, a demobilized soldier and a grant holder, remained his city. A city like a fantasy, that of the roaring years of Fitzgerald and Hemingway, a city where he had found his great love, Jeanne, his companion and collaborator for fifty years, a city that always honoured him, including several times at the Centre Pompidou and the Maison Européenne de la Photographie. To France, he remained faithful as much as to his convictions and his two gallerists, Le Réverbère in Lyon, Polka in Paris, and to himself.

From his apartment on Rue de Médicis, at the age of 94, he continued to be on the lookout for the world and to pester, out of excess of love, against him. William Klein who opened our eyes so much closed his exceptional eye forever.

I extend my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones.