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Monday, 20 October 2008


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Thanks Mike. Bought a copy on Amazon UK this morning (accessed through your link, then clicking the UK link on Amazon). Don't normally impulse buy on the net (very dangerous habit!), but this one looks good. Unlikely I'll ever sell it, but nice to know you are reading a potentially valuable copy!


BN.COM still have a huge stock!

I tried to buy this book after seeing Leiter's work in a feature in Amateur Photographer recently. It was available on Amazon UK for nearly £200 so I ended up buying an alternative, more general collection just called 'Saul Leiter' from Steidl. It is now as low as £36.19 as an import from a US bookseller, I expect that is for the second print version.

I really love his colour work. I've just started using digital cameras and colour is a bit new to me. I've been looking for colour photos that I like as much as the B&W I enjoy and this is the first body of work that has gripped me as much. I find his pictures fascinating.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Powell's Books shows 24 copies in stock. (http://www.powells.com/biblio?isbn=3865211399)


I got the first edition when you mentioned it here. Lovely color. Unfortunately it is now somewhere in a container that was sent to Israel but got landed in Italy (long story), but I will see it again someday.


The only stock on Amazon UK is shipped from the states. Looks like a beauty but I'm going to hold out until there's some UK stock. Hopefully I'll get one

Its nice to see that in this "Our National Time of OMG I'm Just Going To Hide All My Money In My Mattress LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU TALKING ABOUT THE STOCK MARKET LA LA LA LA[,]” that a dedicated few are willing to break out the plastic, keep it up ladies and gentlemen. ch

P.S. Mike, try and get some sleep, its all going to work out fine.

For Canadian buyers: The book is out of stock on Amazon.ca, so I searched on Indigo Books (http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/) and they have it in stock and over $30 cheaper than Amazon plus free shipping.

Of course, I mention this only after I've ordered mine. ;-)

I ordered it from Amazon last night at approximately 10:00 p.m. PDT and have not yet received a confirmation. Usually it just takes a minute or so.

I am beginning to think that what makes a "good" photograph is as mysterious to me as why the stock market rises and falls.

The photograph which you used to illustrate the art of Saul Leiter is unfathomable to me, Mike.

Two thirds of the picture is of an out-of-focus unidentifiable foreground blob. Behind the blob is a flash of a hand in the backseat of what might be a cab. The cab has a pleasing red and yellow color scheme.

This is high art? If an amateur presented this photo to me for an opinion, I would have offered that he need to read about the basics of composition, and then decide upon a subject for every photo he took.

If this is the stuff that everybody agrees is photographic excellence, it is time I sold my camera gear, as I guess I will never "get it".

Hi Mike,

I was wondering why you chose that particular photo of Leiter's for this post? To me, it looks like something I would have put in the "amost" pile - I like the upper part of the image a lot, but that large blob really bothers me. What am I missing here?

Meanwhile, I don't know anything about Leiter, so thank you for highlighting him - I'll look around on the web and find some of his work.

Best regards,

You're absolutely NOT required to like anything anybody else does (or even that EVERYbody else does). Neither should you disparage it, IMHO.

Mike J.

"Neither should you disparage it, IMHO."
--Mike J.

Why do you think that? Isn't that how you build taste, by attempting to discriminate between the good and the bad, and then expressing your opinion for others to comment upon? (I like the photo in question.)


I have been keeping an eye on this one, too, after reading that they were going to print a second edition. Amazon had it briefly in stock 10 days or so ago, then it was gone. It went back in stock a few days later and I purchased it. If the past is any indicator, I'd bet Amazon will randomly list it in stock again until they sell out of another shipment.

The book itself is smaller than I had anticipated and really could have used some more editing, I think. There's some real great stuff in there, but you have to wade through a lot of so-so stuff to get to it.

"Neither should you disparage it, IMHO."
--Mike J.

JC: "Why do you think that? Isn't that how you build taste, by attempting to discriminate between the good and the bad, and then expressing your opinion for others to comment upon? "

No, that isn't really how one builds "taste". Its silly to categorize art as "good" and "bad" in one's mind. As you become older, and if you expose yourself to wider varieties of visual expression, you will certainly find that some works that were "bad" are now "good", or at least "interesting". Conversely you will find that some "good" is now not so interesting.

"Taste" is a point of view. It would be a shame to hem yours in by establishing arbitrary good/bad assignments so casually. If the mind is not open it's certain that also will the eyes be closed.

Don't know a thing about collectible "anythings" but decided to go for this one based on your input and price research.

I Managed to get 2 first edition for 42,50€ each and 3 second editions for 34,75€ each all at a German based art-book shop.

I bought up his whole stock and the woman asked me what was going on, simply told her I want to get my friends this book for Christmas... seemed to have not aroused any suspicion.

Now waiting for this 180€ or so investment turns into Pentax 300mm f4 lens soon :-)

Thanks Mike -- I've been waiting for this one, too, and just ordered it.

Leiters are sometimes too ... 'beautiful' for my taste -- too 'pretty' may be a better word, though neither is adequate. Maybe something to do with his day job as a fashion magazine photographer. But, overall, I love his sense of color, his odd compositions, and the whole 'glimpse of life' aesthetic.

Leiter proves that 'getting close' -- or getting in someone's face -- is not a prerequisite for great "street photography". His best images seem to be taken by someone at a slight remove from life's ceaseless flow, but with a heightened awareness of the Extraordinary that quietly exists within that flow.

Have to disagree with you Mike.

The more color photographs I see, I feel that Walker Evans was right initially when he declared color photographs to be lurid and vulgar. We might just have forgotten, because color has become an all-dominating, almost totally self-contained tyranny. The bright colors that are now used for everything and everywhere have blunted my ability to 'read' color in a critical way. Thus I look at Saul Leiter's photographs and barely find any difference to the average TV add.

I love the work of Saul Leiter. Last year I had the chance to see some prints at Albertina in Vienna, and without knowing him before I was immediately drawn into his style.

Thanks Mike,

I had a very strong response to the photos; very painterly. Completely unaware of him.

Bummed that I'm in a financial valley; as I'm not buying any thing beyond the neccesaries, though a case could be made ....? it is very rare for my customers not to pay promptly, and the checks are flowing in like the USPS is handling them. Is something wrong with the economy?

Grumpy from the hinterlands.


P.S. Ken, great thoughts!

I was able to purchase a new copy via the other sellers at Amazon.com for what seemed to be a reasonable price. Thank you for the recommendation. His work looks very interesting.

i ordered mine from a bookseller on ebay (to save the cost of shipping) when the reprint was first listed on steidlville.com. when it arrived, i was surprised and elated to find that it was a first edition copy!

Dear Mike,

Wow. I am SO glad I jumped at this when I read your post last night. Ordered it immediately. And a copy of Camera Works; why not? That was about 1 AM Central Time. Read your update this morning. Got very nervous! Got an email late today saying that my book(s) had shipped. Whew!

(ROA, take note-- you should be good if you really got an order in at 10PM Pacific, 'cause that beats me by about an hour.)

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

Hmm, discouraging to me to see people discount color images where the guy who made the images was actually considering formal use of color in composition, emotion. Saul is playing with flattening his images foreground to background, messing about with various planes in his images..You have to consider the historical context of these pictures. Damn sure Saul was responding to De Kooning and Mark Rothko, Hans Hoffman and a mess of other painters from that period.

What he is attempting is EXTREMELY challenging with a camera in the streets. It's a fascinating parallel to what the abstract expessionists were doing. Very few do this, very few CAN do this and very few attempt it because it's just effin' difficult. Hell, much of that work is fairly muted as far as color goes.

Leiter, for me, is an escape from the hollow skulled use of color that we see today and have seen before. I don't understand how anyone can just plunk his work into the slot of "vulgar".


For a cheap paperback giving a good educational overview of how dye and pigment technology influenced the execution of art (and vice-versa, of course) readers might enjoy "Bright Earth": see


It gives the wide context into which film, inkjet and photographic art fit; it would be a good primer for anyone heading to the current Rothko exhibition, and a good lead in to a photography-specific colour book.


Saul Leiter was working while abstract expressionism was being practised by the likes of Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko. The use of colour in the above image is something you wouldn't be surprised to see in either of those painters work. That Leiter managed to pull those colours from the chaos of the real world is more then impressive

Ctein – You are right. I received a notice from Amazon last night stating that my order shipped yesterday.

This post got me thinking about a book that I actually own. If you like Saul Leiter you might also enjoy a little known ( I assume) book called REFLECTIONS by David Robinson. I paid $7.00 in a used book store

It is in a similar vein and always makes me want to shoot color film. A little rougher round the edges than Leiter's work but certainly holds it's own IMO.

My copy of Camera Work arrived today, thank you so much for the recommendation - amazing stuff, and fascinating to see how things have changed (and stayed the same) in the last 90 or 100 years.
Regarding the various opinions on Saul Leiter's work - I found it very instructive to read the book synopsis on the Amazon UK link, puts it into perspective for those prepared to dismiss it on the strength of a quick glance at one example.

Cheers, Robin

Mike, I snagged an "as new" first edition today through Amazon Marketplace for $100. If it truly is as new, then that was a good find. Thanks, Charles


Thanks again; as I have time I'm looking at his work online. There is a very real warmth towards humanity in his work, as well as the modernist painterliness.

As soon as the cash flow gets better, no more contributions to TOP; i need to buy some Leiter books.


i am not in buying art books now but it seems weird for the editors not to print enough to meet the demand.any possible (or plausible) reasons?

I honestly don't know.

Mike J.


Perhaps the publisher, like Mike and Ctein, underestimated the power of T.O.P.?


I've no idea how many copies were printed or how those copies are being allocated. The art book publishing business is mysterious and often driven by unseen forces. For example, one current book (from an even bigger art book publisher) was released this month. (I have quite a personal stake in this book, as I provided most of its photography.) But you won't see it on Amazon because fewer than 5,000 copies were printed and apparently all have been claimed by galleries, sponsors, and other interested parties for private dissemination. (An instant collectible!)

I know that Leiter's work has been exhibited lately so perhaps this second printing is privately sponsored and intended to support these showings.

Just a guess.

Wow, gorgeous photographs. Thank you for the tip!

I was still able to order a copy from a local internet book shop just now. (Apparently no T.O.P. effect here...)

Another factor in limited availability may be that it makes books more desirable. Same idea with limited edition prints. Some editions have to sell out for others to be credible. It costs more to produce two small printings than one larger one, but in the end this is generally more profitable.

Be pleased; I'd be surprised if any one-person Amazon affiliates on the web sells more books than you do.

I fell under the spell of Saul Leiter's photography a few weeks ago. Since then I bought a small book of his pictures in the admirable French "Photo Poche" collection (the #113 already).

When I read this post I went to a bookshop in Brussels that has a large choice in photo books. There was a Steidl book of Leiter's work on display, but when I asked about "Early Color", I was told that I was three months late and that they went away "comme des petits pains" (literally: like little breads).

I treated myself to a copy of Robert Frank's "The Americans" instead ;)

My copy arrived Friday from an amazon marketplace seller. When I purchased there weren't any available direct from amazon but this new copy was available. The back page has it listed as a 2006 First Edition copy and its either new or perfect condition. Interesting.


I was one of the lucky 89; or so I thought. After filling my order and billing me they today informed me that they had "A problem with the ship-to address" and refunded my money. What a load of BS! I didn't expect lies.

You're right; given that there are known shortages of the book, for them to give a mere excuse for not sending you yours is shabby.

Mike J.

Well, after getting my money back from two of Amazon UK's resellers, today I received two copies of Early Color directly from the publisher. I opened the shrink wrap on one of them, and have to say that I am delighted. The book is beautifully produced and I love the photographs. How did he remain anonymous for so long?
One thing puzzles me. The invoice says that this is the second printing, but the inside back cover says that it is a first edition. So which is it?
The second book shall remain shrink wrapped. I'll sit on it for a while, maybe sell it, or maybe give it as a present to a good friend. My own copy though, I will enjoy immensly!

Spoke to Steidel at Paris Photo yesterday about this whole reprint issue. Sorry to dampen hopes of profit, but the "Reprint" is EXACTLY the same as the "First Edition", including the publication date and limitation data. They say they are "releasing" another 4000 of the first edition making the total edition 5,000 in all. So anyone who wants one will probably eventually get one. They wouldnt ´say when they were printed, but I suspect recently. I told them they should have been explicit about this and it was very misleading.

Bottom line is that a great book is generally available and the usual collectors mania about 1st editions\printing has been rendered pointless. A shame for people like me who paid £200 for a copy of the first release, but I support the approach if they are upfront about it

Sorry to come late to the party - I read your original recommendation and knew that I would enjoy this book. However I couldn't get hold of a copy and I'd given up on it until I went into The Photographers Gallery bookshop (in London) a few days ago. They've just relocated and their bookshop, which has always been one of my favourite haunts, is now bigger and better stocked. Best of all, they had some copies! Love the book, excellent work and the print quality is superb. I'm not bothered about investment value, this is a keeper.

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