Saul Leiter, Photographer, Dies at 89

Famous for his palette of New York, Leiter left behind a photography legacy.

Saul Leiter was a famous photographer known for going against the typical grain of society among other photographers in New York City. Where WeeGee, Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus were capturing the stores and streets in striking black and white portraits, Leiter was busy finding the bright and colorful parts of the city, with neon lights and vibrant signs.

Leiter was one of the first ever photographers to capture the city in color, but most of his photos remain unprinted and undeveloped. He was an ambitious man, and knew he had to be determined. In 2005 his early color photography was the subject of a well-received exhibition at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in Manhattan; in 2006 a lavishly illustrated book, “Saul Leiter: Early Color,” with a foreword by the British art historian Martin Harrison, helped make it even more widely known.

The same year, the Milwaukee Academy of Art also featured his works, and then a feature length documentary by the British filmmaker Thomas Leach created “In No Great Hurry: 13 Life Lessons with Saul Leiter”.

Mr. Leiter was a member of the New York School of photographers, but never considered himself to be necessarily part of the school. Mr. Leiter’s color is sometimes dramatic but is frequently browned-out and muted, an effect he achieved by using film — typically 35-millimeter Kodachrome — that was past its sell-by date.

He passed away Tuesday in his home, at the age of 89.


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