Saul Leiter – photo impressionist

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In the revamped Photographers’ Gallery just off Oxford Street, until April 3rd you can see some great work from the 40s, 50s and 60s by a New York poet of colour film – Saul Leiter (1923-2013). His colours capture the luminous pastels and vivid saturation of the bustling city, often seen through the grisaille of condensation or rain streaks on windows.

A pioneer of colour documentary photography, Leiter predated the New Colour Photographers of the 70s (Eggleston, Shore) and saw himself as a painter as well as photographer.There are some of his paintings on display too, which show a very personal use of colour and line, sometimes painting directly over his photos as if to wildly reconfigure them.

Leiter was drawn to shapes and shadows and always manages to capture the spirit of a place or situation. Even his fashion images are idiosyncratic and creative in a way few photographers have managed. His eye for surfaces and light textures was exquisite in a Cartier-Bresson decisive moment way, but his sense of veiled atmosphere is akin to Sudek’s hallowed architectural spaces and views through windows.

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It’s a great exhibition for all artists – see it if you can.

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There are also  two other exhibits worth seeing – Rosangela Renno’s slide projectors of images from a Uruguayan communist newspaper, and a collection of the 1916 Easter Uprising images to mark the centenary. Both excellent.

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