Born in New York City in 1928, William Klein studied sociology while enrolled at City College of New York. The son of Hungarian immigrants, Klein grew up in New York City. In 1946, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, spending his tour of duty in postwar Germany. Demobilized in 1948, he moved to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne where he studied art with Fernand Léger. He was interested in abstract painting and sculpture. Returning to New York in 1954, he decided to photograph the city.
“I’m an outsider, I guess, I wasn’t part of any movement. I was working alone, following my instinct. I had no real respect for good technique because I didn’t know what it was. I was self-taught, so that stuff didn’t matter to me.”
Klein returned to Paris. When Fellini was on a visit to Paris, he met the young photographer and invited him to work on his next film, "Nights of Cabiria." When "Nights of Cabiria" went into a stall, Klein used his time take street photographs in Rome. The resulting images were published in late 1957.
In 1958, his photographs appeared in Vogue, and for the next 10 years he worked for the magazine.
He has had solo and group exhibitions including Prints 1955-2007, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, galleria Carla Sozzani, Milan, Italy and Rand Manège, Moscow. Klein’s work is in the collection of The Guggenheim Museum, New York, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.