Profile: Henri Leighton (1917-2004)

Henri Leighton was an American photographer and technical writer on photography, noted for his mid-century pictures of African-American children playing in city streets. In his fifties he abandoned photography for a later career, teaching himself jewellery, which he sold commercially.

Early life and education

Henri Leighton was born in 1917 in Memphis, son of Theo and Janet Shuster Levi and received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Mississippi in 1938. He served as a cryptographer in the Army Air Force during World War II. 

Photographer and writer

Leighton’s photographs show a consistent interest in childhood and closeness, and in the street photography genre in which he practiced he also shot night scenes and radically motion-blurred images of the hectic Times Square precinct. He used an early example of single-lens reflex camera, the 35 mm format Exakta, and the Contax 35mm rangefinder.

Leighton wrote for a number of publications on technical aspects of photography

Personal life

Leighton was resident of Vicksburg, New York City, and Summit, N.J. He moved to Plainfield in 1984, where he died at 86 years old on Friday, May 21, 2004, at his home. He was survived by a brother, Ted Levi. 

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