A while back I did a post on someone who’s become one of my favorite photographers, Saul Leiter. The post was on his early color work, which is amazing. (the work, not necessarily the post 😉 )
When I first started studying Saul’s photography it was his color work that really stood out to me. That would probably surprise a lot of people because I’ve almost always preferred black and white photography. Saul’s color work includes so many layers and complex compositions, without being to cluttered or busy to convey feeling. But that’s not what this post is about. (btw, you can click on any of the images on this page to see a larger version)
Saul Leiter: Early Black and White
This is a two volume set that covers Saul’s early black and white photography. Where you see the complex layered composition in his color work, the black and white work is often more simple and minimal in composition, yet still just as powerful, just in a different way.
Volume I, Interiors, for the most part offers images in which there is more of an intimate connection with the person or persons in the photos. A lot of them are more of a candid nature; photos with friends and people that Saul knew.
There are also some really beautiful nudes in very natural settings. Very beautiful work and I just really love this style of photography because of the almost documentary feel to it. Real moments. To me that offers so much more value from the image than a posed or overly styled shot from a photo shoot. I can appreciate a really well produced image from an actual photo shoot, I do a lot of that work myself. But, the longer I am a photographer, the more I appreciate more of a sense of reality in the images.
Volume II, Exteriors gets more into street photography of New York during the middle of the twentieth century in which there’s not that intimate connection with the subjects. The approach to this kind of photography is where the photographer is more of an observer. The thing that makes the work in this volume stand out to me is Saul Leiter’s eye; his way of framing and capturing images that, while not as intimate in nature, still draws me in and expresses the feeling of the scene very well.
Although I do love both volumes I’d have to say that Interiors is my favorite of the two. The intimate nature of the photos, especially of the nudes really tells a story to me. That’s one reason I’ve been drawn to the work of a photographer I only recently learned of, Ryan Muirhead on Instagram. Just very natural and beautiful images.
Anyway, these are two great books that I can strongly recommend if you like this kind of work. They’re published by Stiedl which does an excellent job as a book publisher. Great quality feel to the paper, binding and images. The two volumes come as a set in a nice slip cover.
More Saul Leiter!
If you’d like to see more images by Sual Leiter, many of which are in these books, you can visit my Saul Leiter board on Pinterest. You’ll also be able to see some of his color work there.
If you’d like to pick up a copy, I got mine here at Amazon.com (not an affiliate link)