Recently, I watched a documentary about the legendary colour photographer, Saul Leiter (1923 – 2013). It’s called “In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life from Saul Leiter.” Watch the trailer below.
“An unassuming man who shunned attention, Saul Leiter photographed on the streets of New York, mostly within a few blocks of his East Village apartment. With their rich layering and swaths of beautiful color, Leiter’s images induced moments of quietude and contemplation amid the bustle and chaos of New York City street life.” – David Walker, PDN News
Saul Leiter’s photography resonates with me deeply. He was a New York City street photographer, who did fashion shoots to earn a living. Yet, he has become known for his impressionistic colour work on the streets of the city. Leiter lived in the same neighbourhood for over sixty years.
According to one article from Photographers Speak, he was a “quiet iconoclast,” working in colour at a time when most fine art photographers worked in black and white. He shot vertically rather than horizontally most of the time. He used telephoto lenses to compress perspective rather than the more typical wide angle for street photography.
Here are a few of my favourite quotes from the film.
“Everything is suitable to be photographed. A photograph of a window covered in raindrops interest me more than a photograph of a famous person.”
“I don’t plan to photograph certain things, I come across them. I enjoy catching certain moments. I tend to react to what I find.”
“There are the things that are out in the open and then there are the things that are hidden, and life has more to do, the real world has more to do with what is hidden, maybe. You think?”
Below are links to some wonderful articles about Leiter and the quotes that stood out to me.
An Interview with Saul Leiter from Photographers Speak
“He had a distinct visual grammar that featured off-center perspectives, compressed spatial dynamics, and a predilection for breaking up the frame in unpredictable and exciting ways.”
“I admired a tremendous number of photographers, but for some reason I arrived at a point of view of my own.” ~ Saul Leiter
“I never felt the need to do what everyone else did. And I wasn’t troubled by the fact that other people were doing other things.” ~ Saul Leiter
“I don’t have a philosophy. I have a camera. I look into the camera and take pictures. My photographs are the tiniest part of what I see that could be photographed. They are fragments of endless possibilities.” ~ Saul Leiter
“I think I’ve said this before many times—that photography allows you to learn to look and see. You begin to see things you had never paid any attention to. And as you photograph, one of the benefits is that the world becomes a much richer, juicier, visual place. Sometimes it is almost unbearable — it is too interesting. And it isn’t always just the photos you take that matters. It is looking at the world and seeing things that you never photograph that could be photographs if you had the energy to keep taking pictures every second of your life.” ~ Saul Leiter
A Casual Conversation with Saul Leiter – Time Magazine
“Max Kozloff said to me one day, ‘You’re not really a photographer. You do photography, but you do it for your own purposes – your purposes are not the same as others’. I’m not quite sure what he meant, but I like that. I like the way he put it.” ~ Saul Leiter
Postscript: Saul Leiter (1923-2013) via The New Yorker
“The overriding emotion in his work is a stillness, tenderness, and grace that is at odds with the mad rush of New York street life.”
“The content of Saul Leiter’s photographs arrives on a sort of delay: it takes a moment after the first glance to know what the picture is about. You don’t so much see the image as let it dissolve into your consciousness, like a tablet in a glass of water.”
A Short Interview with Saul Leiter via In-Public
There are many videos online with Saul Leiter. Here are a couple.
Saul Leiter on Vimeo – a 14 minutes interview from a year before his deathRead More