These days we tend to think of Leiter as a pioneer in color street photography. It would probably surprise most of Leiter’s modern fans to discover he actually made his bones as a second-tier fashion photographer. He said,
“I was constantly aware that those who hired me would have preferred to work with a star such as Avedon. But it didn’t matter. I had work and I made a living. At the same time, I took my own photographs.”
Those photographs — the ones he described as ‘my own’ — are the photos he’s known for today. But Leiter stopped showing those photos to people in the late 1940s. He simply filed the transparencies away in cardboard boxes. Half a century later, in the 1990s, he began to print and show them.
Nobody paid much attention to them. Not at first. But gradually his work began to infiltrate into the world of fine arts photography. Today, of course, he’s the famous Saul Leiter.
“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege.”
Saul Leiter. 1923 to 2013. We’ll not see his like again.