Even after the plaudits started to rain down after the publication of his now essential book, “Early Color” in 2006, Saul Leiter was a reluctant legend. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Pittsburgh in 1923, Leiter was expected to follow in the religious footsteps of his father, a rabbi. But he had other ideas and gravitated toward the arts. In 1946, he moved to New York to start a life as an artist, where he lived until his death in 2013.
Leiter started off wanting to be a painter, but he began working in photography after Richard Pousette-Dart, a founder of the New York School of painting, introduced him to it. He soon found that he had a natural talent with the camera and eventually started to make a living taking photographs, including a stint of about 20 years shooting for magazines, including Life and Harper’s Bazaar. But at some point, he sort of faded, perhaps because, as Teju Cole noted in his 2013 New Yorker obituary, Leiter “didn’t court fame, and though he continued to work, his photographs vanished from view.” That is, until decades later when he was ‘rediscovered’ after “Early Color” was published.
The book propelled Leiter and his work back into the spotlight, and it hasn’t dimmed since: More books featuring his work have been published, and numerous gallery shows have sprung up, including a current one at The Photographer’s Gallery in London, “Saul Leiter: Retrospective,” which runs through April 3. The show features more than 100 of Leiter’s works, including early black and white photos, sketchbooks and assorted ephemera. It is Leiter’s first major show in a public gallery in the United Kingdom.
For more information about Leiter’s show at The Photograper’s Gallery, click here.
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