Saul Leiter died on Tuesday. He was 89, a remarkable and practically unknown photographer. Leiter is undeniably one of my favorite photographers.
If I hadn’t gone to a gallery opening in Dubai 5 years ago, and if I hadn’t noticed a shelf of monographs at the back of the gallery, I might not have discovered him either. I brought home Saul Leiter: Early Color, feeling as though I had a great treasure in my suitcase.
One rainy night last May I was walking down a boulevard in Vienna. The day before I had seen Leiter’s show at the Museum Hundertwasser. Tomas Leach’s documentary was screened at the show, so I’d had a good lesson about how much Leiter hated the commercial aspect of things. But, there, on a kiosk, soaked with rain, was the poster for Leiter’s show. As the kiosk rotated it revealed an ad for H&M, an irony that I am sure Saul would have loved – the most fame adverse of artists endlessly revolving with the most commercial of enterprises.
In the article reporting his death the New York Times quoted Leiter:
“I am not immersed in self-admiration,” he said. “When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at 3 in the morning and realize that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use.”