Saul Leiter

Red Umbrella, 1960  © Saul Leiter Red Umbrella, 1960 © Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter died on 26th November - just one week prior to his 90th birthday. Hadn’t he left Cleveland’s Talmudic school in 1946, his life would have probably been different - or perhaps not as different as we might imagine. Still, you can bet our perception of colour would not be the same. Surely we wouldn’t have the same vision of a simultaneously livid and pure snowy New York City - indeed “postcards” from 1950s’ Hollywood movies wouldn’t have allowed for it.
All his life he was an abstract expressionist at heart, much similar to his friends at Tanager Gallery (where he did exhibit his works). He put his medley of colours invariably on film, water-painting and tempera. He drew thick patterns and sudden dramatic details in black & white, resulting in an extraordinary complementarity of elements.

Haze, refractions, condense, snow. Mankind constantly on the move in a torn and chaotic metropolis, far removed from Time Square’s shimmer - so majestically fragmented in a collage of shop signs, traffic lights, taxis, mirrors, glasses. And umbrellas.  Black & white makes details more intimate, almost as though they were being stolen. Leiter captures unrepeatable shadows and gestures through the condense of diners’ windows on 10th East. He combines them with a jungle of railings, traffic lights and light posts behind which he would hide himself, too, at times.
He is always associated with the heroes who gave birth to street photography. Yet we dare say he would have preferred to be affiliated to Bonnard or Delaunay.

Gabriele Magazzù

We recommend Tomas Leach's documentary “In No Great Hurry”, an amazing portrait released in 2012, and his photos on display at New York's Howard Greenberg Gallery.

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