In No Great Hurry: 13 Life Lessons with Saul Leiter
Saul Leiter is the subject of an upcoming documentary by filmmaker Tomas Leach. The photographer, now in his 80s, is still living in New York City. In a recent interview he explained why he chose to work in color, over the preferred choice of black & white at the time, saying, “I never felt the need to do what everyone else did. And I wasn’t troubled by the fact that other people were doing other things.” These days, he says, “I realize that the search for beauty is not highly popular… Agony, misery and wretchedness, now these are worth perusing.”
In No Great Hurry: 13 Life Lessons with Saul Leiter is not only a beautifully-shot tribute to this unique talent, his work documenting life in the same area of Manhattan for decades and his outlook on the world, it is also testament to Tomas’ tenacity and vision. Released here for the first time, the trailer should be enough to convince you that the film was worth the wait and we spoke to Tomas about this intense labour of love.
“Between each trip I would have it all transcribed so I could read it like a book. I had been floating the idea for a while that it needed some kind of external structure because he talks in massive long circles. The point was to make it work as a film rather than a collection of interviews. I wanted something that someone who has no interest in photography can engage with and that’s why there’s more of my relationship with him in the film than maybe I had originally planned, him teasing me and that kind of thing.”
About Saul Leiter
Although Edward Steichen exhibited some of Saul Leiter’s color photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953, for forty years afterwards they remained virtually unknown to the art world. Leiter moved to New York in 1946 intending to be a painter and through his friendship with the abstract expressionist Richard Pousette-Dart he quickly recognized the creative potential of photography. Though he continued to paint, exhibiting alongside Philip Guston and Willem de Kooning, Leiter’s camera became — like an extension of his arm and mind — an ever-present interpreter of life in the metropolis.
The semi-mythical notion of the ‘New York street photographer’ was born at the same time, in the late-1940s. But Leiter’s sensibility — comparable to the European intimism of Bonnard, a painter he greatly admires — placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternative way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.
None of Leiter’s contemporaries, with the single and partial exception of Helen Levitt, assembled a comparable body of work in color. The lyricism and intensity of his vision come into fullest play in his eloquent handling of color: to the rapid recording of the spontaneous unfolding of life on the street, Leiter adds an unconventional sense of form and a brilliantly improvisational, and frequently almost abstract, use of found colors and tones. Leiter’s visual language of fragmentation, ambiguity and contingency is evoked in Saul Leiter: Early Color by one hundred subtle, painterly images that stretched the boundaries of photography in the second half of the twentieth-century.
( source : steidl )