Saul Leiter was born in Pittsburgh in 1923. When he was 23, he moved to New York to pursue painting after leaving theology school in his late teens. During his stay in New York, he made friends with the Abstract Expressionist artist Richard Pousette-Dart, who experimented with photography. His friendship with Pousette-Dart and soon afterward with W. Eugene Smith expanded his interest in photography.
Leiter’s earliest black and white photographs show an exceptional affinity for the medium. He began to work in color during the 1950s, compiling an extensive body of work during the medium’s infancy. Among his contemporaries, his distinctively subdued color often had a painterly quality. Despite this, Leiter’s noncommercial work remained virtually unknown to the broader art community for the next four decades. Throughout the 1970s, he worked as a fashion photographer, contributing to magazines such as Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen, and Nova.
Leiter was a pioneer of early color photography and one of the most outstanding figures in post-war photography. Following several exhibitions at Howard Greenberg Gallery throughout the 1990s, Leiter’s work experienced a surge in popularity after a monograph, Early Color, was published by Steidl in 2006. Later, Leiter was the subject of several solo shows, including at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris; the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; and Diechtorhallen, Hamburg.
Through the end of his life, Saul Leiter continued to paint and photograph. These beautiful color photos show his 1950s work.