Saul Leiter’s Color Street Photography – The Palette of NYC



Interview excerpts:

“I’m sometimes mystified by people who keep diaries. I never thought of my existence as being that important.

I have a deep-seated distrust and even contempt for people who are driven by ambition to conquer the world … those who cannot control themselves and produce vast amounts of crap that no one cares about. I find it unattractive. I like the Zen artists: they’d do some work, and then they’d stop for a while.”

“I’ve never been overwhelmed with a desire to become famous. It’s not that I didn’t want to have my work appreciated, but for some reason — maybe it’s because my father disapproved of almost everything I did — in some secret place in my being was a desire to avoid success.

My friend Henry [Wolf] once said that I had a talent for being indifferent to opportunities. He felt that I could have built more of a career, but instead I went home and drank coffee and looked out the window.”

“I’m supposed to be a pioneer in color. I didn’t know I was a pioneer, but I’ve been told I’m a pioneer. I’ll just go ahead and be a pioneer!

I find it strange that anyone would believe that the only thing that matters is black and white. It’s just idiotic. The history of art is the history of color. The cave paintings had color … [But] there has always been the idea in certain circles that form is more important, that to have too much color is not good, it distracts from your concentration.”

“I owe a great deal to Howard [Greenberg, his gallerist], because he has sold my work and provided me with enough money so that I don’t have to worry about paying my bills. Howard is a very nice man, especially when you consider what some dealers are like. Some wanted to be artists, but they ended up being dealers and sometimes, in some corner of the brain, there’s a jealousy there.”

Saul Leiter (born 1923) is an American photographer and painter whose early work in the 1940s and 1950s is a crucial contribution to color street photography. In 1948 he started taking color photographs and associating with other contemporary photographers such as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus. Leiter helped form what Jane Livingston has termed the New York School of photographers.



(All rights reserved. Images @ Saul Leiter and courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery)

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