Saul Leiter’s painterly images evoke the flow and rhythm of life on the mid-century streets of New York in luminous colour, at a time when his contemporaries were shooting in black and white. His mastery of colour is displayed in unconventional cityscapes in which reflections, transparency, complex framing and mirroring effects are married to a very personal printing style, creating a unique kind of urban view; his complex and impressionistic photographs are as much about evoking an atmosphere as nailing the decisive moment.
Leiter’s studio in New York’s East Village, where he lived from 1952 until his death in 2013, is now home to the Saul Leiter Foundation, which is undertaking a full-scale survey and organization of Leiter’s more than 80,000 works. In so doing they have unearthed many previously unpublished photographs, stills and negatives, a rich selection of which is published here. They include fashion shots, rain-blurred street scenes, early self-portraits and – most importantly – hitherto unseen photos of his muse and lover, Soames Bantry. These new discoveries shed fresh light on Leiter’s creative practice and demonstrate his enduring appeal.
As Saul Leiter said, ‘Photographs are often treated as capturing important moments, but they are really small fragments and memories of the world that never ends.’