Saul Leiter: In No Great Hurry

In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter.

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American photographer and painter, Saul Leiter, was a pioneer of color photography. He was best known for his iconic fashion and art photography and remained relatively unsung until he was rediscovered by curators and critics in his early 80s.

Photographing for magazines including Esquire, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar, Leiter also frequently worked in and around his home city of New York. Since the publication of his 2006 monograph Saul Leiter: Early Color, Leiter became known for his vibrant color street photographs.

In this documentary, directed by Tomas Leach,  In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life With Saul Leiter (2012) follows Saul as he deals with the triple burden of clearing a houseful of memories, becoming world-famous in his eighties, and fending off a pesky filmmaker.

1.Camera
His Mother bought him his first camera, a Detrola, and taught him how to use. His decision to pursue arts, painting, caused considerable pain to his father, an Orthodox rabbi, and a reputable scholar. He was encouraged to persue photography by his friend, abstract expressionist painter, Richard Pousette-Dart.

2. Colours
He enjoyed looking with his camera. He receive a lot of negative comments about using colour photography at the time but was not bothered by these comments. Pioneer in colour photography? “I don’t know, I don’t care!”

3. A legacy
Saul Leiter was never driven by the lure of conventional success. Instead, he preferred to drink coffee and photograph in his own way, amassing an archive of gorgeous work piled high in his New York City apartment. He was interested in many things, but not obsessed. He does not worry as long as he keeps doing what he does.

4. The ways to God
Leiter wanted to be free from those nobilities, religions and stuff. He once wrote a poem,’The ways to God’. If kindness interfered with the quest for knowledge, better to get rid of it. He did not expect to have a book about him. He felt he had not spent his life important.

5. Taking photography seriously
From the beginning, certain people showing photographs in a certain artistic way. Leiter didn’t think it was important to take photographs, it was more of an interest, and he wasn’t too friendly with other photographers, or people who wanted to show his images.  Some ppl connect his works to abstracts, but he doesn’t feel it that way.

Saul Leiter believes that everything is suitable to photograph. The world teaches you all kinds of things.

6. Staying Still
Interesting to see how Reiter interact which his subjects as he goes about in his street photography. “Now don’t move, wait a minute, wait a minute….”

7. When through the series of contact sheets with his ‘right-hand woman’, Margit, she was surprised that Leiter’s photography style never changed; It remained the same more than thirty years, despite the change of camera technology. For Leiter, it was more of the enjoying capturing moments. “Barely think of myself. Think of as painting.”

8. Leiter was a singularly gifted photographer because he never stopped looking at life with a painter’s eye for composition and abstraction. he tends to react to what he had found. He always tells people, “the moment you start doing prints, you become a better photographer.”

9. Some fashion images were influenced by other things.There were people who didn’t allow him to do what he wanted to do. They did something good,  so he did something bad.

 10. Tickling your left year.
“My photographs were meant to tickle your left ear.”

11. Sharing Art
 The Soames of that title was his longtime friend, muse and lover, Soames Bantry, a model turned painter. She died in 2002. “Love comes and goes,” he wrote in a short elegy to her. “Friendship is sometimes better, but not always … Our lives were intertwined … We stumbled through life together.” They lived in the same building on separate floors and both experienced financial hardship.

  12. No reason to rush
There are some things which people think are important, where they not really are. … “I like it when one is not certain what one sees. When we do not know why the photographer has taken a picture and when we do not know why we are looking at it, all of a sudden we discover something that we start seeing. I like this confusion.”

13. A search for beauty
Saul Reiter believes there is such a thing as ‘a search for beauty’. He considers it worthwhile for one to pursue their perceived forms of beauty.

All in all, this film was a soulful documentary. What I like about this film was how much humour he found in absolutely everything, his interaction which the filmaker over the few sessions made both relationship closer, and the whole filming session becomes very open, honest and enjoyable experience. Saul Leiter died on 26 November 2013, in New York City.

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