Saul Leiter: 1923-2013
I can’t claim to have personally known Saul Leiter who has just passed away in New York but I have a strong sense that apart from being so originally gifted as a photographer; he was also modest, free of pretension, wise, generous and perhaps above all else, he was authentic. Authenticity is a rare quality and probably a fading one in the world of photography.
Saul Leiter pursued his photography – and his painting – because that was his calling irrespective of whether it brought him fame. He seemed refreshingly ambivalent about fame; in fact he stated a desire to be ignored. Did he mean it? Yes, he probably did but he enjoyed the waves of recognition that washed over him in his life especially in his latter years when he was almost forgotten.
Rightly regarded as a pioneer in color photography in the 1950s and beyond because he seemed so naturally to understand that genre’s particular palette. His use of color was so subtle but always a celebration. Consider just one picture; a snow laden street with half of a figure at the edge of the frame with a red umbrella. He loved umbrellas and reflections and taking photographs through rain stained misted windows. He loved woman too, his fashion photography is testimony to that. He will be remembered by many as a fine street photographer.
Leiter was recently generous enough to allow some of his work to be featured on in-public, which was something that touched us all. In an accompanying interview he stated. “I am 89 and I know what I’m talking about – sometimes” He enjoyed being self-mocking but he knew more than most, he was an inspiration.