on November 9, 2012
This large format hardcover book presents the most complete look at Saul Leiter's career to date. Included are his color photographs, black and white pictures, over-painted photos, commercial fashion photography, and paintings. For the first time you get the full view of his many different activities and while the color photography is the star attraction for me it's interesting to see how everything connects in terms of color and composition. The book itself is a sturdy hardcover with different papers for different sections and the reproductions are the best in print to date. Even if you have earlier books on Saul Leiter this is worth the upgrade. If you don't have any Saul Leiter books this is the best place to start. Recommended.
on May 6, 2013
Why, oh why did it have to take so long? Had the Post-War Baby Boomer Generation been aware of Leiter in the sixties and seventies, when so many of us caught the fire, selected and clung to our photo-heros for decades, and started shooting, the history of photography would likely have looked rather different.
The Steidl-published "Early Color" is a teaser compared to this, but a necessary volume, nonetheless. This magnificent volume, beautifully done, is comprehensive, covering Leiter's color and B&W photography and his painting art. Often the manner of Leiter's seeing in B&W and color and his use of color remind me of my number one photo-hero, Ernst Haas, but Leiter's way of seeing is also very different. Both created virtual oeuvres of modernist, expressionist abstracts with their cameras, but this reviewer's impression is that SL played with unfocus much more aggressively than EH, whose abstracts are either focused or smoothed using movement and slow shutter speeds. Both pioneered new ways of using the small format camera in the earliest days of 35mm color film. In their color work, both are or were colorists, and both used a lot of black in their private work. I wonder how much each knew of the other and each other's work. SL's use of color and tonal masses, often in the foreground, and of unexpected framing opportunities caught with exquisite timing are his alone but have come to be among the compositional staples of such as Costa Manos and Alex Webb now.
The several essays summarize information from and about SL and his painting and photography and place him among the so-called "New York School" of photographers from the 30s to the 60s and, in some cases, until today. Thankfully, SL is still with us today.
There is a "look" to both the painting and the photography apparent in masters' work from that era, even though each practitioner has/had their own contributions, that ties them to what was going on in the world of art in the early half of the century. The number of masters was finite enough that our generation could pick some favorites and follow their careers to the present day, in continuing work or posthumous publication and exhibition. It is a shame and a huge lost opportunity that our generation did not know much, if anything, about Saul Leiter
Had SL's work been in the books and photographic magazines of the 60s and 70s, there is no doubt IMHO that he would have had major influences on people's taking up photography, informed how they began to see, and become one of the revered pioneers in modern monochrome and color photography. The exposure to examples of his painting art is also delightful, and reminds one of Cartier-Bresson's links of the drawing arts to his photography.
All this reviewer can say is, "Late is at least better than never." Thank you, Saul Leiter, for finally allowing us to know something of the range of your work, and thank you, the publishers, for finally giving us a worthy introduction to his work.
on January 4, 2014
Like most of us, I discovered Saul Leiter very recently, via the documentary "In No Great Hurry" when it was first shown in the UK on BBC4 in April. I was initially wholly charmed by the man, and then I saw his photographs. The first serious use of color in fine art photography is attributed mostly to three other photographers, none of them Saul Leiter; the canon must be rewritten. Like much truly great photography, Leiter's work is both understated and bursting, and looking at it you can't be bothered by captious questions about whether photography is art. These photographs have such a draw, such presence and aura (to use Walter Benjamin's terms), and are so much like both cake & meat that the pleasure of viewing them is all that matters, for the moment. Many, most, are abstractions of a sort, but all always firmly grounded in the pictorial. Lower Manhattan in the 1950's is most of that ground, and as with Albert Kahn's photographers' Autochromes of Europe & elsewhere ca. 1908-1930, Leiter's transparencies are an intoxicating and luminous revelation of an otherwise monochrome moment in place (even to those who lived it in color). The colors are so exceptional, so extraordinary and particular they must be called 'Leiter-colors,' & description deferred to experience. They (colors, form, whole) are also nearly tactile, and for all their plane-geometry many photographs have a sense of depth that will envelop you. I have only twice or three times in my life been this excited, as startled by a photographer. These photographs hold my gaze for a long time.
This catalogue raisonnee from Kehrer is a beautiful & thoroughgoing book. Reproduction is excellent & most images are printed here larger than elsewhere. The book treats of his whole ouevre, not just photography, & while some of the paintings stand up right next to New York contemporaries like Rothko, Still, & Newman, and the essays are good reads & informative, I wish there were more space given to camera art. It is of interest, as you become familiar with Leiter's style & approach to picture-taking, to examine his magazine work, especially the Harper's Bazaar covers. They show a very strong affinity with his private work, & though he was never as successful as Avedon (not by half, or even half of half), I think I see a Leiter influence on later cover photography in fashion magazines. Lastly, while advertised as a bi-lingual edition, nearly half of the texts are in German only. I have found no translations available anywhere. A minor quibble for such a fine photobook, but be aware of this. One other minor quibble, about the production: very nice full cloth binding & in place of a dust jacket is a cardstock sleeve. The sleeve is open at both ends & can slide around (or off) & is easily creased or torn. It was intended, I think, as an inexpensive type of slip-case, but it is the weakest point of an otherwise superior book, inside or out.
Highly recommended without reservation to anyone with an interest in "fine-art photography" (whatever that is), [early] color photography, history of photography, New York in the 40's through 60's (though there's work here from as late as 2011), abstract expressionism, neglected masters; oh, just get the book! Saul died two days before Thanksgiving 2013 just as his documentary profile ("In No Great Hurry") debuted in NY. This eponymous book is out of stock everywhere, as are ALL the other titles. Grab it when Kehrer inevitably re-prints it sometime early in 2014. There are other worthy Leiter books, but if you have just one, this should be it. Though interest in Saul is high now (with his death, film debut, and several NYT and magazine articles published in the last 6 weeks), the next printing will almost certainly be the last (as is the fate of most photobooks). New collections may follow, but posthumous edits are never as desirable, are they? So get it, how you can, when you can.
on May 16, 2014
My initial impression of the book was mixed. The images of his photos and his paintings are well done and offer a further glimpse into the artist's work. Much of the accompanying articles are in German - which was a bit disappointing, only because it was not mentioned in the book description on Amazon and I don't speak the language. However, delving just a bit deeper, reveals that English translations are include in the back of the book and make for a very fascinating read.
Saul Leiter is one of my favorite photographers of the modern era and this book offers a great insight into the man as an artist, with his unique photographic compositions and lovely use of bold color, both photographically and in his paintings. The images are well presented for the most part, with reasonable quality for a book of this sort. There are some painting images inserted as smaller pieces in the middle of the book, which are interesting, but a bit close too the binding for my taste.
One of the most interesting articles is the one by Margit Erb, who I believe may have known him better than many, having spent several years with Saul, organizing and cataloging his body of work. If you've seen any of the documentary film "In No Great Hurry" or any of the other videos of Saul, you've seen that his fondness for Margit was mutual. Her story adds further to the understanding of Saul as an artist, a man of great intellectual curiosity and knowledge of the visual arts. He will be missed, but his work can be celebrated by owning books such as this one. Very Highly recommended.
on December 8, 2012
This book shows a great retrospective of Saul Leiter's work. Leiter's photographs have a clear pictorial intention in their composition, which becomes evident by the paintings also reproduced here. The gaze of the painter-photographer determines the beautiful and nostalgic images. Highly recommended.
on August 5, 2013
I love these photos. It's hard to believe that they sat for years in a box undeveloped. This guy is in a tiny class of photographers that have made this level of beautiful color photographs. The only other photographer in Saul's class is Ernst Haas. The selection of photographs is excellent.
For those that believe that only B&W can produce art, this book will change your mind.
The book is very well made with a nice slide on cover. The binding is good and I recommend it anyone interested in beautiful, high quality artistic photographs.
on October 28, 2013
Love his work and a good selection. However, I wish they hadn't spread some of his photos on two pages across the center bindings. It disrupts the pleasure of viewing his work.
on August 14, 2014
An excellent read - I was disappointed that I had reached the end after nearly 300 pages! This book does cover the wide variety of Saul's work, from his street photography to his fashion photography and his paintings. Most of the text was interesting and insightful, a nice reflection upon a humble artist.
There are only two downsides in my opinion - first, I was expecting this book to have more art and less text, and second, the section on Saul's paintings written by Carrie Springer came across as very "high art" and largely mumbo-jumbo, something Saul himself seemed averse to. Otherwise, it's a very enjoyable read that I devoured in one sitting.
on September 3, 2013
I adore this book. Photographer Saul Leiter had a superb, ultra-hip 1950's bebop-flavored eye for high abstraction: he turned ordinary NYC street-scenes into dazzlingly stylish, poetic, elliptical, geometrically beautiful abstractions.... and all in striking, lean, novel color combinations, as spare and pared-down as a cool Miles Davis riff. Lovers of AbEx, NYC and Midcentury sensibilities simply mustn't miss this wonderful book... Leiter's photos from the 1950's and early 1960's look as hip and stylish as they did when they were first taken. Includes a number of his drawings for VOGUE magazine, which I confess I like less well than his street-scene photos. Dazzling and inspiring, this high-quality art book is very highly recommended.
on August 29, 2013
A wonderfully poetic photographer and master of his craft. Leiter's color works are small masterpieces with the same elegance and power as a Vermeer.