Culture Spot: Saul Leiter

I recently realised that it’s slightly ridiculous that I have never made it down to The Photographer’s Gallery because it is less than 10 minutes from my house on foot. So I took a break from working in cafés and decided to go and get a little mid-week culture in my life.

One of their current exhibits displays the work of Saul Leiter, a pioneer of colour photography in the 1940s. A lot of his work focuses on his life in New York, where he moved with the intention of becoming a painter, but ended up working for magazines likes Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. 

His images of New York capture the movement of the city perfectly. I loved the way in which Leiter focuses on ordinary moments in his work, cars moving or people walking, or rain, rather than capturing big moments of drama and tension. Most striking about his work is Leiter’s use of colour. He used Kodachrome colour film when other artists rejected it, and was using these techniques as early as 1946 to create incredibly vibrant images.

I also particularly enjoyed his nudes, in both sketch and photographic form. There was a collage quality to them with so much colour which I loved. There was a similar explosion of colour in his sketch books, interesting in how it stood apart from his photographic work for magazines and otherwise. His work has a vibrancy throughout, whether in his magazine work or his personal sketchbooks, and a painterly quality that runs as a recurrent theme in the bold hues he uses in his photographs.

Saul Leiter is running at The Photographer’s Gallery from January 22nd – April 3rd 2016.



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