Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Saul Leiter: Sheer Beauty

Saul Leiter, Phone Call, 1957

I've been holding on to these photographs by Saul Leiter for a while now, waiting for a flash of inspiration. The truth is that I know very little about him, apart from that his experiments with his Leica on the streets of New York in the 1940s and 1950s are textured, abstract and instinctive works of sheer beauty.
     Trained as a rabbi, he would later turn to fashion magazine shoots to earn a living, but in between times he showed that street photography needn't solely be a place for sweaty socio-realism. Others have done that before and since but perhaps what is most exciting about Leiter's work is that he didn't strain to find his best images. There are no forced narratives in his portfolio, no romantic cliches or staged shots. His subjects are cafe tables, steamed-up windows and half-painted signs - stylish vintage ones, sure, but nothing that we couldn't find at least a variation of today, in any street, in any town. Leiter simply knew how best to frame the odd reflections and distorted shapes that he found, elevating them to something much more mysterious and enduring.
     Collections on his work had been notoriously difficult to get hold of - at one stage, a first edition of Early Color book was going for $600 on eBay - but the small, feverish demand for his work has finally been acknowledged. A second printing of Early Color is out now, London's Faggionato Fine Art ran a small show of prints last year and if Amazon is to be believed, a reprint of Early Black And White is due soon. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, you can see a selection of the photographer's best images here.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting blog.

    I'm not familiar with his work at all, but it looks like something I should look into.