Stunning Color Photography in the 1950s by Saul Leiter – Design You Trust

Stunning Color Photography in the 1950s by Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter (1923-2013) was born in Pittsburgh. His interest in art began in his late teens, he left theology school and moved to New York to pursue painting at age 23. In New York, he befriended the Abstract Expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography. His friendship with Pousette-Dart and soon after, with W. Eugene Smith, expanded his interest in photography.


Leiter’s earliest black and white photographs show an extraordinary affinity for the medium. By the 1950s, he began to work in color as well, compiling an extensive and significant body of work during the medium’s infancy. His distinctively subdued color often has a painterly quality that stood out among the work of his contemporaries.

However, over the next four decades, Leiter’s noncommercial work remained virtually unknown to the wider art world. He continued to work as a fashion photographer through the 1970s, contributing to such publications as in Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen, and Nova.

Leiter is now held to be a pioneer of early color photography, and is noted as one of the outstanding figures in post-war photography. After several exhibitions at Howard Greenberg Gallery throughout the 1990s, Leiter’s work experienced a surge of popularity after a monograph, Early Color, was published by Steidl in 2006. Leiter was the subject of several solo shows thereafter, including the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris; the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam; Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne; and Diechtorhallen, Hamburg.

Saul Leiter continued to paint and photograph through the end of his life.

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