Saul Leiter (American, 1923–2013) was a photographer and painter whose work was an integral part of the creation of the New York School. Growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, Leiter studied to become a rabbi. When he was 23 years old, he exchanged school for New York City and a career as an artist. In his early years, Leiter was drawn to painting, and he had the opportunity to meet Richard Pousette-Dart, an Abstract Expressionist painter.

Leiter was encouraged by Pousette-Dart and W. Eugene Smith to try his hand at photography. He ventured into color photography in 1948. In 1953, Leiter's black-and-white photographs were included in an exhibition of Edward Steichen's entitled Always the Young Stranger at The Museum of Modern Art. Leiter's color fashion photographs were published by Henry Wolfe in Esquire and Harper's Bazaar in the late 1950s. This kicked off his 20-year fashion photography career leading to publications in such magazines as British Vogue, Elle, Nova, Show, and Queen. Leiter's work has a quality similar to that of a painting and is unique in the world of photography. In addition to his photography, Leiter continues to paint, potentially the reason for the similarities between his photography and paintings.

Today the photographs that Leiter created are referenced in many colleges and universities in the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago. Some of the more current solo exhibitions of Leiter's work have been in a retrospective in Hamburg in 2012, at Fifty One Fine Art Photography in Antwerp in 2011, in a show entitled New York Reflections in Amsterdam in 2011, and at Mois de la Foto in Paris in 2010. In 2008, Leiter had six solo exhibitions spanning the globe, including shows in Paris, Milan, New York, and London. His work is known worldwide. Leiter's first museum exhibition in Europe was hosted by the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris. Leiter is represented by the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York.

Timeline

1923
Born in Pittsburgh, USA
1946
Left theological college in Cleveland, moved to New York to pursue painting
1946
Traded some of W. Eugene Smith’s Spanish village photographs for a Leica 1C, made photographs on streets of New York
1947
Attended Beaumont Newhall’s exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s work at MoMA, confirmed his desire to become a photographer
1953
25 images included in Steichen’s Always the Young Stranger exhibition at MoMA
1953
Opened studio on Bleecker St. for portrait, fashion, and advertising photography
1957
Fashion color work first published by Henry Wolf at Esquire
1960
Photo essays for Elle and Show, active in fashion work in England
1963
Moved studio to lower Fifth Avenue (until 1981)
2013
Died in New York, USA

Exhibitions

2008
Saul Leiter Early Colour 1948-1959, Faggionato Fine Arts, London, England
Saul Leiter: Women, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA
Saul Leiter, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris, France (solo)
2007
Saul Leiter: Early Color, University of Maine Museum of Art, Bangor, USA (solo)
Pieces of a City, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York, USA
Mapping the City, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
When Color Was New, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
2006
In Living Color: Photographs by Saul Leiter, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milkwaukee, USA (solo)
Saul Leiter: Color, Fifty One Fine Art Photography, Antwerp, Belgium (solo)
The Fashion Photographs of Saul Leiter, Festival of Fashion Photography, Hyeres, France (solo)
Color Photography, Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, USA
The Streets of New York, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
2005
Saul Leiter: Early Color Work, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
2004
Saul Leiter: In Color, Staton Greenberg Gallery, Santa Barbara, USA (solo)
2002
New York: Capital of Photography, Jewish Museum, New York, USA
New York Scene: Ted Croner, Sid Grossman, Saul Leiter and Leon Levinstein, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA
Visions From American: Photographs from the Whitney Museum of American Art 1940-2001, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
1998
Look at Me, Fashion and Photography in Britain 1960 to the Present, British Council
1997
Saul Leiter In Color, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
Saul Leiter In Color, Martha Schneider Gallery, Chicago, USA (solo)
1996
Delirium, Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, USA
1995
By Night, Cartier Foundation, Paris, France
1994
Outside Fashion: Style and Subversion, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA
The New York School, Dean Jensen Gallery, Milwaukee, USA
1993
Saul Leiter Photography 1945-1970, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York, USA (solo)
1991
Appearances: Fashion Photography Since 1945, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
1985
Gallery Lafayette, New York, USA
1984
Gallery Lafayette, New York, USA
1953
Contemporary Photography, Tokyo Museum, Tokyo, Japan
Always the Young Stranger, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1950
Tanager Gallery, New York, USA
Samuel Koonst Gallery, New York, USA
1947
Abstract and Surrealist Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, USA
1945
Outlines Gallery, Pittsburgh, USA
1944
Ten Thirty Gallery, Cleveland, USA

Literature

1991
Appearances: Fashion Photography
1989
The Correspondent Magazine: Saul Leiter Rediscovered/Martin Harrison
1961
Infinity: Saul Leiter’s World/Rob Cowley