In the early 1980s, Leiter found it more and more difficult to find work. The lack of clear detail, the blurring of movement and the reduction in depth of field, the compensation for or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows and by reflections all blend to create a language of color fueled by a semi-real, semi-abstract urban space. Very similar to Vivian Maier he shot mostly for himself and stored his color slide shots in a box. There are always changes and revisions of the appreciation of art, artists, and photography and writers and on and on. Saul Leiter Untitled Self-portrait 1950s © Saul Leiter Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York. But the abstract allure of his work doesn't rely on soft focus, a persistent, often irritating photographic ploy, or the stark isolation of details, in the manner of Aaron Siskind or early Harry Callahan. Would you appreciate seeing the details of your world and life differently? Influenced by painting, Leiter tries to bring to photography the chromaticismand the strong colors of Abstract Expressionism, blurring the subjects throughthe windows wet with rain, framing them with very accurate compositionalchoices, using every color that the city offers.
It's a wonderful book for anyone interested in photography and pure expression. In interviews Leiter shares that he does gain a great deal of inspiration from painters — and I think it shows very clearly through his work. The edition I perused was mostly in German, so I can't comment on that aspect of the book, but his prints and paintings are truly wonderful. I never thought of my existence as being that important. Takeaway point: I am not encouraging everyone to go out and buy a 500mm lens for street photography— but I do encourage everyone to experiment with different focal lengths.
But he was never renowned or celebrated as a great visual artist in the way Arbus or Frank are. They are fragments of endless possibilities. However the most important aspect we need to nurture and develop is our eyes. A version of this review appears in print on December 30, 2005, on Page E00039 of the National edition with the headline: Art in Review; Saul Leiter. It was only in the 1990s that he began to look back at that remarkable color work and start to make prints. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it… Maybe I was irresponsible.
Thepredominant emotion in his work is the silence, the tenderness, and the gracethat is in contrast to the mad rush of life on the streets of New York. Visit museums, galleries, and exhibitions. He comes across his themes, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and a recurrent motif umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The late art of Picasso is no good but then a revision takes place and then it becomes very good as the art records indicate. All works are courtesy of the artist and the Howard Greenberg Gallery.
I was constantly aware that those who hired me would have preferred to work with a star such as Avedon. Do you see the urban environment as a kind of alienating or isolating entity? That is how I think I learnt to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I am fond of the telephoto lens, as I am of the normal 50 mm lens. Trained as a painter, Leiter was introduced to photography by the Abstract Expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart. Strangely enough, I knew exactly what I wanted and what I liked. Through his classes, he befriended the painter Richard Pousette-Dart, an abstract expressionist who was on social terms with the photographer W Eugene Smith. Be humble © Saul Leiter One of the reasons why I think that Leiter is so greatly admired besides his photographs is that he is humble.
Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. What do you find most visually interesting in your life— that you often overlook? At his late eighties, he is very down-to-earth, and has no interest in legacy or fame. His images depict a complex interaction of people, architecture and weather that is full of fragmented, partial, veiled or multiplied forms and figures. The most affordable book you can get by Leiter! Although his subjects are taken up inthe vortex of Manhattan, he is able to represent a peaceful humanity. The visual language is that offragmentation, but color intensity is always the most characteristic feature ofhis photos.
The lyricism and intensity of his vision come into fullest play in his eloquent handling of color: to the rapid recording of the spontaneous unfolding of life on the street, Leiter adds an unconventional sense of form and a brilliantly improvisational, and frequently almost abstract, use of found colors and tones. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. A great way to motivate yourself to shooting more: imagine that you learned that you had a rare eye disease and that by the end of the year you would become totally blind. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. It sparked a withdrawal from public life, and for much of the rest of his days, he lived and worked in a reclusive, solitary fashion.