Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter is an American photographer and painter who became famous for his images of unusual compositions and odd angles. He got acquainted with the art of photography at the age of 12 when his mother gave him his first camera. Raised in a religious family at the age of 23 he left Pittsburgh for New York City. His parents were very unhappy and sad to find out that their son would like to become a photographer. In fact they wanted him to be a rabbi.

His style of photography was influenced by the Abstract Expressionism that became a leading art movement of New York art scene at the time. His works are even compared to Johannes Vermeer’s due to asymmetry dominating over his images. In fact decisive moment wasn’t that important for Leiter. Unimportant and uninteresting things were attracting his attention more. Leiter was captivated by street life, wandering people and other regular things. Many of his pictures are fragments of something big. Quite often we do not see faces of people he depicted. He tried to see beauty in ordinary things. “It’s quite possible that my work represents a search for beauty in the most prosaic and ordinary places. One doesn’t have to be in some faraway dreamland in order to find beauty. I realize that the search for beauty is not popular these days. Agony, misery and wretchedness, now these are worth perusing”. Leiter himself is sure that he has no his own philosophy. “My photographs are the tiniest part of what I see that could be photographed. They are fragments of endless possibilities”. His works are far from perfection. In fact Leiter doesn’t admire it at all.

In the late 1940s Leiter began to take color pictures. Painting was an essential part of his creative work. It had its impact on his style especially on his color images.

Although his works are labeled as art photography for some 20 years he worked as a fashion photographer. In his own words fashion photography “doesn’t need apologies”. He needed to make money. Thus he worked for Elle, British Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and others magazines. Strangely enough but fashion photography influenced his personal works that seem have nothing to do with fashion industry.

Surprisingly for some period of time his works were not displayed in public. People were not interested in his style and approach. Martin Harrison, an art historian made his works public.

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