Saul Leiter: Early Black and White Photographs
Saul Leiter was immensely recognised for his color work, however when he started in New York in the 1940s he was also shooting black-and-white. Steidl is publishing a book about his Early Black and White work showing the impressive range of Leiter’s early photography.
Leiter’s early work was acknowledged by Edward Steichen, who included him in two important MoMA shows in the 1950s. MoMA’s 1957 conference “Experimental Photography in Color” featured 20 color photographs by Leiter. This focus on colour, undoubtedly deserved, has been at the expense of his black-and-white work, which demonstrates the same visual dexterity.
The distinctive iconography of Saul Leiter’s early black and white photographs stems from his profound response to the dynamic street life of New York City in the late 1940s and 50s. While this technique borrowed aspects of the photo-documentary, Leiter’s imagery was more shaped by his highly individual reactions to the people and places he encountered. Like a Magic Realist with a camera, Leiter absorbed the mystery of the city and poignant human experiences.
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.
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