Without any formal training, Saul Leiter began taking his own photographs on the streets of New York City in the 1940s. His amateur works were quickly recognized by Edward Steichen, who included him in two shows at the MoMA not long later in the 50’s.
For some 40 years after those exhibits, Leiter’s continued to take pictures for his own pleasure, but his personal photography remained just that - his own, not shared with the public.
It wasn’t until the 90’s that Leiter revisited his collection of slides and began to make prints again.
His work is both spatially expansive and confining. What often looks accidental, his framing is almost scientific, as he unconventionally captures moments of tranquility in the frenzied commotion of New York.
His shots are still and serene, but full of life and motion. His color pallet looks carefully curated but also abstract and improvised.
Leiter once said that he usually purchased inexpensive color film that was past its expiration date, because he liked to be surprised by the strange shifts in color that would result.
Above are some of my favorite works by Leiter. His use of negative space and the movement that he conveys is what really grabbed me and first turned me on to his photographs. It’s an inspiring reminder that the camera is an extension of the eye, arm and mind, and that you don’t need to be a trained professional to use one.
Photos courtesy: Jackson Fine Art