Hands up who’s heard of Saul Leiter?

The of most important part of photography isn’t anything technical, it’s where you point the camera.
It’s why 99% photos look dull, everybody points in the same direction.
Often it’s because people don’t think that they have other options, or they feel too self-conscious to point their camera in the ‘wrong’ direction, it feels so unnatural.
“Seeing is a neglected enterprise.” as Saul Leiter put it.
He must’ve looked weird whilst doing his seeing; his camera would be pointing in all the wrong directions; inches away from a shop window, pointing at someones shoulder rather than their face or with something in the way, like a wall.
Because he’s trying to find things that haven’t been seen, shining a light on objects and angles that have spent their lives in the shadows.
Seinfeld is often described as ‘a show about nothing’, Saul Leiter’s shots could also be described as pictures of nothing. 

Both descriptions would be wrong.
“Everything is suitable to be photographed” said Leiter “
I happen to believe in the beauty of simple things. I believe that the most uninteresting thing can be very interesting.” He said.

1923: Born in Pittsburgh. The son of a rabbi and distinguished Talmudic scholar.
1935: Gets his first camera, from his mum.
1945:
Quits rabbinical school.
1946: Moves to New York City to pursue painting in 1946.
1947: Meets the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography. Leiter’s friendship with Pousette-Dart, and soon after with W. Eugene Smith.
1947: Discovers the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Inspired.
'Sailors', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg'Dick-and-Adele, 1947', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg'Two Women', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpgp12-tokyo-leiter-a-20170503.jpg
1947:
Included in a MOMA exhibition curated by Edward Steichen.PF94483.jpgPF116814.jpgSaul-Leiter-Man-with-Tie-c.1949-Image-copyrights-©-Howard-Greenberg-Gallery.jpg
Leiter_05.jpg'Beret', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpgsaul-leiter-photographers-gallery.jpg'Plat', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg'Girl On Grass', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg
1948:
Swiches to colour photography, starts experimenting with Kodachrome 35 mm film that’s past its sell-by date.'Hat', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpgsaul-leiter-foot-on-el-1954-LARGE.jpgsaul_leiter_09.jpgLeiter_MondrianWorker1954.jpg1950’s: Leiter’s street imagery gets him noticed and commissioned by magazines like Life, before long he was shooting celebrities and stories too.
saul-contest22-closeup.jpgtumblr_luvyo9oVrI1r5fc00o1_1280.jpg
1. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye

TOWN 'Beefeaters Cover - Saul Leiter.jpg
ScreenShot126.bmp-1.jpgScreenShot124.bmp.jpgScreenShot125.bmp.jpg5. oct1960', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpgSaul Leiter 'Sophia Loren 2', EsquireSaul Leiter 'Sophia Loren', Esquire
Saul Leiter '5th Ave', Esquire
By the late fifties he was nagged by self-doubt, so would never reply to gallery invitations or hobnob with curators, but desperately short of money he began taking fashion pictures.

0. 'lingerie-harpers-bazaar-1955', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye“I don’t have a philosophy. I have a camera.”1a. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.1f. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
1958: Esquire published Leiter’s first colour fashion work, it would lead to work for Harpers Bazaar, ShowElleBritish VogueQueen, and Nova and all the major fashion magazines of the day.Lempertz-1068-169-Photography-Frank-Horvat-Paris-for-lOfficiel-Ev.jpg2ll. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2mm. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2rr. Bazaar June 1962-294. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4a. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4b. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5ab. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5e. Saul Leiter, Bazaar Cover 'Green Thing'.6. ', Saul Leiter:Dave DyeBazaar's Children Saul Leiter-106. Bazaar's Children Saul Leiter6.Bazaar's Children Saul Leiter-66a. Saul Leiter 'Cool Blue 1', Esquire6b. Saul Leiter 'Cool Blue 2', Esquire6c. Saul Leiter 'Cool Blue', Esquire7. Saul Leiter - Ireland Harper's Bazaar October 1963-8“Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness.”e59cfc670d95b9082e0659594b55395f.jpg10. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye11. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye12. Saul Leiter, Vogue Cover, 'Silver Hair'13. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
Here’s an ad where Leiter explains ‘bounce lighting’.
692c06890e1a2174116d6fc6cb20ee3c.jpg

The images look so loose, random almost, that it’s hard to take in.
They can look like a series of happy accidents, so I thought it’d help to break them down into things that Leiter liked.

1. CROP OBJECT OUT OF FRAME.
1. 'Ladder', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. 'Red Umbrella', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. 'Steps', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. 'Box Girl', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
2. SHOOT INTO REFLECTIONS.
1. 'Haircut', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. 'Blue Sky', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. 463-1956-saul-leiter-1341718710_b5. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. SHOOT THROUGH SOMETHING.
'Snow Car', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg
'Green Staircase', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye.jpg
Saul Leiter, Sunday Time356-01 copy.jpg
21tmag-saulleiter-slide-9JMZ-superJumbo-01.jpg4. TEXTURE CAN HELP CREATE AN OTHER-WORLDLY FEEL.
1. 'Wire Window', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dyesaul7777.jpg
5. THE WORLD LOOKS DIFFERENT AND PEOPLE CUT ODD SHAPES IN SNOW.

1. 'Coke Snow'Snow Car', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. 'Window Snow'Snow Car', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5. 'NEWS', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
6. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR UMBRELLAS.
0. 'Magenta Umbrella', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye1. 'Blue Umbrella', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye*2. saul-leiter-photography-the-red-list3. Saul Leiter 'Footprints', 19505. '10 Umbrellas', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye

7. MAKE WORDS THE STAR.
1. 'Coca-Cola', Saul Leiter-Dave Dye-012. 'Horne & Hardardt', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye, (1959)3. 'Sign_Painter_1954', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. 'Artisan Boulangerie', Saul Leiter:Dave Dy5. 'House -1960', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
7. SHOOT FROM ABOVE…WAY ABOVE.
1. 'Hat', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. 'Skirt', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. 'Pram', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. -saul-leiter-photography-the-red-list5. 'Newspapers', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye

8. PUT SOMETHING IN THE WAY OF THE IMAGE.
0. 'White Car' Saul Leiter:Dave Dye1. Awning' Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. 'Red Thing' Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave DyeSaul Leiter 'Green Coat'Saul-Leiter-qidye-19.jpg

9. SHOOT THROUGH THE ROUND WINDOW…OR SQUARE, OR OBLONG.
1. 'Holes' Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye5. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye
10. LET THE SHADOW FALL IN THE WRONG PLACE.
1. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye2. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye3. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye4. ', Saul Leiter:Dave DyeFFOTOIMAGE_Leiter_Lanesville_Web5. ', Saul Leiter:Dave Dye

Here’s one of his contact sheets, it’s interesting to see what he’s pointing his camera at.

i-01.jpg

When he started shooting with colour film, 1948, it wasn’t taken seriously, even by the photographic community, it was considered garish and superficial.
Leiter’s subject matter probably didn’t help either.
I would take another twenty years for colour photography to be taken seriously.

It took ’til 2006 for Leiter to be given his first solo exhibition.
Leiter was hailed as a forgotten pioneer.
He remarked “when I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at three in the morning and realise that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use”.
In 2015 filmmaker Todd Haynes used Leiter as a visual reference for his film ‘Carol’.
carol_poster.jpg

“That muted colour palette spoke very specifically of the 1950s, which was well before the shiny, cleaned up, chrome-y period of the Eisenhower era” said Haynes.
carol_leiter3.jpgcarol-rooney-mara.jpgcarol-r.jpgIronically, the Oscar nomination for it got cinematography may be the most recognition he’s received,
He died in 2013, one month shy of his 90th birthday.
Saul-Leiter.jpg

Nb.
There’s a great documentary about him here.
http://watch.innogreathurry.com/
Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 17.04.01.png

In conversation.

leiter-001-1200x1798.jpg

 

11 responses to Hands up who’s heard of Saul Leiter?

  1. Anton Ezer says:

    Great article Dave. I recognised some of the photographs, but not who had taken them.
    My fail, that you’ve corrected.
    Thanks

  2. Graham Fink says:

    Well, you’ve given away a big secret here. I’ve known his work for years and he was a big influence on me at art school. Leiter was a true pioneer. Incredibly inspirational and groundbreaking. Shooting in colour when everyone else was shooting in B&W. Although people like Stephen Shore was credited with breaking that tradition, Leiter was doing it 20 years earlier. I love his compositions, especially the ones where 3/4 of the frame was a black tarpaulin. But you should look at his paintings. That gives you a clue to his deeper thinking and photographic approach. He was also incredibly humble. He had no idea he was right on the cutting edge of photography. Real genius.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Graham, I think the secret was out, maybe I’ve inched it a bit further out.
      Although I only discovered his work about seven years ago, if you discovered him whilst at art school you beat me by 26 years, oh hang on I forgot, you’re older than me aren’t you, 38 years before me. Dx

      • Graham Fink says:

        Haha. I think I was older than you, but somehow you caught up and overtook me:-) When we gonna do Part 2.5 Podcast?

  3. jim downie says:

    Another great collection Dave. I still have copies of About Town, and Twen. They led the way for what Nova was to become. Great Art Directors at these magazines could spot his magic eye. More please.

    • dave dye says:

      Hey Jim, if you’ve got stuff that isn’t in there and a scanner, ping it over, I’ll add it to the post.
      Who else do you like? Dx

  4. Rolph Gobits says:

    Dave,

    After reading your article and looking at the photographs I set aside whatever I had to do the following day, grabbing my Leica and went in search for trying to take a memorable photograph.
    Thank for coming up with great artist who paint with light and shapes.

    Rolph Gobits

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