Saul Leiter at The Photographer’s Gallery in London: 22 Jan – 3 Apr 2016

Saul Leiter (1923-2013), an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s was an important contribution to what came to be recognized, as the New York School of photography is now showing at The Photographer’s Gallery in Soho, London. An intimate and inspiring, small selection of his early work beautifully showcased.

Saul Leiter’s groundbreaking work in photography and painting is only now receiving the international recognition it deserves. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Leiter was expected to follow into the religious footsteps of his father and studied to become a rabbi. But Leiter had other interest and was drawn to the arts. At the age of 23 he moved to New York to start the life of an artist wanting to become a painter.

Since his arrival in New York Leiter had been documenting street life, first in black and white, later also in colour. Many of Leiter’s colour images focus on the lone figure. Photographs are usually taken from a distance, occasionally face-on, but more often from the side or the back, his subjects are superimposed against a busy, urban environment; reflected in mirrors, framed by windows, entangled in road signs or commercial advertisements. Movements are blurred and details half-concealed. His usage of colour allowed him to make the otherwise hidden elements, especially his signature framing devises such as windows, doors and mirrors, more visible and explicit as visual ‘spy holes’. All beautifully showcased at the exhibition.

Leiter had a natural talent with the camera and eventually started to make a living taking photographs. He worked as a fashion photographer for 20 years and was published in the world’s most known fashion magazines such as British Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar.

It seems astonishing that Saul Leiter is only just beginning to acquire significant mainstream recognition for his pioneering role in the emergence of colour photography. Leiter is now seen to be a pioneer of early colour photography, and is noted as one of the outstanding figures in post-war photography. The Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York was the first to honour this and held the first exhibition showcasing his black and white photographs in 1993.

The exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery brings together and tributes Leiter’s early black and white and colour photography, sketchbook clippings and a small selection of his painted work. A definite must see for art and photography lovers.

“I don’t have a philosophy, I have a camera.” Saul Leiter

The exhibition is on until 3 April 2016.

Photo credits:

The Photographersgallery

UTATA Photography

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