(UPDATE) My 2008 interview with Helen Levitt, post here.
While William Eggleston is often viewed as the "father of color photography," I find that Helen Levitt's work in color is of even greater significance. Levitt is best known for her earlier black & white work, but in 1959 and 1960, funded with two Guggenheim fellowships, she created her first body of work in color. While most of the slides were later lost due to theft, a few remaining images (along with later color work from the early 70's) were shown as a slide show at MoMA in 1974, two years before Eggleston's exhibit there.
Last year, PowerHouse Books published this work in Slide Show, but I first saw Levitt's color photographs in Aperture 19:4 (along with Mark Goodman's Millerton photographs) and soon after, in an exhibition at the Corcoran. It was Levitt's amazing use of color, and not Eggleston's, that started my own color explorations. I admired her work so much that I arranged to meet her at her New York apartment in 1981. She was generous with her time and comments, we watched public television a bit, talked about our cats, and I drove to my own apartment two hours north of Manhattan that night with one of the worst headaches ever! Well, luckily I don't have migraines anymore, but I still love Levitt's work and am glad she was willing to spend a little time with a young photographer who was just starting to learn.