Foto Colectania, Barcelona, shows the work of Saul Leiter, the surprising precursor of colour photography
Leiter combined photography and painting all his life, and continued painting daily until his death in November 2013 at age 89. But the camera became the medium through which he managed to capture and interpret the life of New York City in multi-layered compositions, as well as in intimate scenes, as nobody had done before.
Saul Leiter was born in 1923 and moved to New York City in 1946, intending to be a painter. Knowing at an early age that he wouldn’t thrive in the religious community he was brought up in, he felt the calling of an artist’s life. His mother gave him a camera when he was an adolescent, and later he realised photography could be part of his pictorial language.
The dynamic between painting and photography had an impact on Leiter’s artistic gaze, and he thus created a new visual rhythm. His typical photographic language is one of abstraction: He compresses spatial dynamics, obstructs sight lines, and gives up a centered perspective. Leiter’s painterly sensibility is clearly visible in the soft and unsaturated contrasts in his photographs. Moreover, his use of reflection makes his compositions more shattered, more tangled.
Leiter’s early black-and-white photographs capture the energetic street life of New York City in the late 1940s and ’50s, reflecting his unique perspective on the places and people he encountered. Conversely, his nudes and intimate portraits reflect a more quiet sense of beauty, illuminating a close collaboration with his subjects in which they feel free to reveal their true selves. Included in this exhibition are 130 color and black and white photographs, around 30 photographs of streets, along with a similar number of nudes and intimate portraits.
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