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Tuesday, 03 December 2013


As far as books go, one might also look for the Thames and Hudson Photofile monograph which may still be available. (I found a copy in Barnes & Noble.) Small in size. but a nice introduction to Leiter's work, both B&W and color.

This is a great documentary on Saul: http://www.innogreathurry.com/InNoGreatHurry/Home.html

The film is called "In no great hurry" 13 lessons in life with Paul Leiter. It has just been released on DVD in the UK. Mine arrived on Monday but I have not yet had the time to watch it.

My name is Ken Tanaka and I'm a Leiter-holic.

I could write a medium-length essay on why Saul Leiter's work suddenly clicked with me. (Mercifully, I won't.) It wasn't immediate but it sure became lasting.

If you're interested in learning and seeing more about Saul Leiter here's my five-cent tip list.

1. If at all possible try to see some prints of his work. There's no true substitute for seeing the sensual tonalities of his Kodachrome images.

2. If you just want a cheap casual relationship (ahh...) the Photofile book is a very good tour briefing (once it comes back into stock). It's a 'Saul Leiter for Dummies".

3a. The best and most available presentation of Leiter's work is Steidl's Early Color. Just get it if the Photofile proves insufficient.

3b. An outstanding companion to Early Color is Saul Leiter which is actually a catalog for a 2008 retrospective show. Although there's overlap with Early Color this book features quite a few previously unpublished
images as well as some of Leiter's b&w work. Unfortunately this is now out of print and only available at high prices on the secondary market. But if you really want to get into collecting Saul's books you should grab a copy now. The price will be much higher and supply much lower soon.

4. Finally, the more recent German-English book by Vince Aletti (et.al.) represents the best biography of Leiter and the widest-angle overview of his artistic career. Frankly the plates here are not nearly as lushly reproduced as the other books. Plus the uber-bold type design is distracting. But the excellent texts and presentation of Leiter's vocational fashion work and his non-photographic art works make this is a must-have reference book for any prospective Leiter-holics.

I cannot think of any better description for Saul Leiter's work than Teju Cole wrote in the final paragraph of his New Yorker article last week:

"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."

I'll miss the thought of Saul potentially still rolling about New York with a keen eye armed with a camera.

>>Those entities do not appear to have a very high opinion of sophistication of the citizens of Waukesha, unfortunately.

And you do? Other than you, how many of your fellow citizens would pay to attend art films regularly enough that the theater could turn a decent profit? Seems to me you want the sophistication, resources and opportunities of living in a big city without actually living in one. I sympathize with your tastes and desires but I don't think Waukesha is the best place to satisfy them. And by the way, I say this as someone who lives in the surburbs of Philadelphia and often drives to New York to see major shows and exhibits.

Didn't know I knew of Saul Leiter, oh I miss Camera Arts! Are you listening Jim Hughes?

For those of you not fortunate enough to have read Camera Arts, think TOP in print form.


Thanks. I'm glad to see Saul Leiter getting well deserved recognition. He really was a leader in color work and in recording NYC. Another thought: Its a shame that Camera Arts didn't survive.

Wow, of all of the Artist passings this one really makes me stop and genuflect. A guy who is very close to my heart.

As these things sometimes go, I was watching his recent Documentary last Tuesday evening when he passed. I recommend the film if/when it comes to your part of the world. A very humble guy who sought no fame, only a life of "searching for Beauty". RIP Saul.


I confess that I had never heard of him before. But I read his obituary in 'The Guardian' and I was delighted by the gallery of his photos on their website (http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2013/nov/29/saul-leiter-photographer-in-pictures). I love the pastel colours and misty windows (after Sudek?). Did any photographer take such a high proportion of portrait format images without taking conventional portraits?

I agree that Saul Leiter will endure. His work is so quiet and beautiful it still feels fresh fifty years after it was done.
On the movie issue, perhaps Waukesha needs to do what Omaha did and find the money for a non-profit art house to show movies for adults.
Filmstreams in Omaha has two screens and shows a mix of contemporary small films along with classics.
This week it is Kurosawa's "High and Low" and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska".
"Nebraska" is a knock out. It is in black and white and it looks like something Wright Morris or David Plowden would have shot. If you love black and white photography you need to check it out. It is also hilarious.

I'm embarrassed to say that, thanks to Eric Kim, I just disclovered Saul Leiter a few weeks ago (http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2013/11/04/7-lessons-saul-leiter-has-taught-me-about-street-photography/).
I was so taken by his work, and became an instant fan, combing the Internet, watching video interviews,and checking out what I could from the library.
This is a great loss, but he left a great legacy.

He is one of my favorites of all time. So he will be in my list of 21st century photographers.

I'm also looking forward to his book "Early Black and White"

      . It has been in the works for some time now.

Regarding the policies of your local cinema, these are not a reflection upon the citizens of Waukesha, but an indication of the "we know best" arrogance of corporate management.

My son is a theater manager for a large national chain of theaters. We are in an area of Southern California that has more Vietnamese than any locale outside of Vietnam itself. A few years ago they managed to briefly bypass corporate control and book a Vietnamese-language film in one theater of their multi-screen facility.

That film had the highest ticket sales of any of the films they were showing that week, but they were chastised by corporate for deviating from the corporate booking list, and told to never do it again.

Similarly, there is a brand of licorice that is popular in the East, where that chain's corporate headquarters are located. This is the brand that corporate executives mandated must be sold in the concession stands of the theaters - exclusively.

The theaters in California protested that a different brand of licorice outsells the "official" one here by a ratio of about 5 to 1 in stores, and that they could increase sales significantly if allowed to sell this brand in the theaters. Corporate responded - in so many words - with, "Shut up you idiots, we know best".


Regarding 'small films for serious thinking adults', the very definition of same (especially as regards photographers) may be the fairly recent “Bill Cunningham New York”. Lovely, and the director doesn't seem to have a 'point-of-view', in that he seems to realize it's enough just to show Bill doing what Bill does without the need to push, slant, or otherwise add his own narrative to Bill's story (which is amazing enough by itself - I hope I have half that much energy and dedication at that age!).

There is already a small Saul Leiter publication tsunami underway, so I think we will learn more about his work and perhaps about his work since the 1950s.

Jane Livingston's "New York School" used only black and white images by Leiter. Steidel published "Early Color" in 2006, with an introduction dated 2005. An exhibition that has a strong overlap with "Early Color" circulated in 2007-8 with a catalog published by Steidel in 2008 under the title "Saul Leiter." The catalog contains a conversation between Leiter and Sam Stourdze. That catalog may be the Kehrer Verlag edition that you refer to. Stourdze has a new book coming out, connected to a 2011 version of the Leiter show, which may or may not contain new material. Vince Aletti's book, currently out of print, but with a new edition promised, covers Leiter's commercial work and later mixed media prints as well. Facts are also fluctuating. Stourdze's interview and chronology mentions the Gene Smith connection, but says that Leiter traded several Smith prints for his first Leica.

Bob Shamis' "New York in Color" uses Leiter's "Taxi" on its cover, but Bob Dylan and Joel Meyerowitz get mentioned in Amazon's blurb far above Saul Leiter, who is apparently considered a precursor/enabler of a larger and later body of work. Amazon has them all...


Nice article, Mike.

What a wonderful, wonderful photographer Leiter. Early Color is just about the only photography book I happily recommend without reservation.

His fashion work is not to be sniffed at, either. Appearances, a book on post WWII fashion photography, which was published in 1990 praised his work. Interestingly, the book categorised Leiter as an 'outsider' and made the point by printing, full page, a b/w street portrait he took of a boy in Dublin in 1963. Needless to say, the photo is glorious.

Dear Mike, Thank you for the lovely tribute to Saul Leiter. I was lucky to see "In No Great Hurry" earlier this year on British TV. Some time after that I was in Hackelbury Fine Art gallery in London who had an exhibition of Leiter's photographs and paintings. I much preferred his photographs but I'm biased. However there was a couple in there who were buying one of his paintings which I think was selling at £12,000.

Best wishes


BBC Imagine arts series showed a film called In No Great Hurry about Saul Leiter in 2012. Maybe you can access this somewhere.

I bought 'Early Color' on your recommendation, Mike - that and a look at a few on-screen images.

He's who I think of when I think of someone who encapsulates the idea of 'not gardening'.

I am not sure whether the phrase 'gardening' is used in the US, but in the UK I have heard it used to describe things like picking up a piece of litter that is 'spoiling the scene'.

Or it could be just a twig or a dead branch that is lying the 'wrong' way and messing up the composition.

And when I think of Saul Leiter's photos (very easy to bring to mind) I think of someone who didn't move to 'garden' the scenes he saw.

He didn't move to get around the 'obstructing' bits. He let the scene be with all its layers - and let it just draw you in.

thanks for an insightful post on Leiter. i can understand your PS about movie theatres -- all too well, i'm afraid. However, for *almost* the same price as mainstream movie ticket, you can buy and own forever a DVD of the Leiter biography: http://www.innogreathurry.com/InNoGreatHurry/Shop.html

fwiw, i'd rather see it in the big screen, but doubt it'll ever happen, so i just bought the DVD myself.

i've been enjoying your writing -- thank you so much for sharing your ideas and expertise.

Thank you, Mike, for turning me on to Leiter and the Steidl reissue of Early Color years ago. The book, and Leiter's art, are now among my favorites.

I look forward to seeing that documentary some day and learning more about the man. Philadelphia missed out, too, despite having multiple film festivals and three multi-screen art-house theaters!

Unfortunately, my order for the reprint of "Early Color" was cancelled by the Book Depository this morning, shortly before it was due to be released. It is now listed as "currently unavailable"; I assume Steidl are rethinking either the size of the print run or the entire plan in light of this sad news.

I have to thank you, Mike, for sending me to the Color Rush show last spring. I spent 20 or 30 minutes in the Leiter exhibit, watching the slide show loop several times. What a delight! Teju Cole (as quoted by Ken Tanaka, above) describes the experience perfectly.

I watched a couple of the YouTube clips from In No Great Hurry when I first read about his passing. He comes across as a very humble, good-humored guy - a rare combination in an artist of such talent and accomplishment.

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