I love Saul Leiter’s work. It’s beautiful. It’s because of his contributions in photography in the 1940s and 50s that we often think of his certain cinematic style as the New York School of Photography, or the New York Style.
The New York School of Photography refers to a loosely defined group of photographers who lived and worked in New York City during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s sharing influences, subjects and stylistic earmarks. These photographers would capture life in New York not as “the big city,” but as a collection of neighborhoods, people, and emotions that would later define what we now consider top of mind when thinking about the nostalgic way New York used to be. It’s the bright lights of Coney Island, the hustle and bustle on the Manhattan sidewalk, and the stroll in Central Park that interested these photographers. The men and women of this movement are artists like Ruth Orkin, Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas, and even to a lesser extent their predecessor Bernice Abbott. Leiter and his contemporaries were shooting photography in a way that had previously only been achieved through accidental results.
Martin Harrison, editor and author of Saul Leiter Early Color, once wrote that “Leiter’s sensibility . . . placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternate way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.”
It’s those moments, shot by Leiter, that are beautifully captured here in this photo series we’re exhibiting for you. Take a look.