Saul Leiter

American photographer (1923-2013)

Saul Leiter (3 December 192326 November 2013) was an American photographer and painter.

I never felt the need to do what everyone else did. And I wasn’t troubled by the fact that other people were doing other things.


  • I must admit that I am not a member of the ugly school. I have a great regard for certain notions of beauty even though to some it is an old fashioned idea. Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness.
    • As quoted in Saul Leiter (2008) by Agnès Sire
  • In order to build a career and to be successful, one has to be determined. One has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it.
    • As quoted in Saul Leiter (2008) by Agnès Sire

Saul Leiter: The Quiet Iconoclast (2009)Edit

"Saul Leiter: The Quiet Iconoclast", interview at Photographers Speak (22 April 2009)
  • I really don’t think I was influenced by anyone. I think I will leave it up to someone else to determine who influenced me. I admired a tremendous number of photographers, but for some reason I arrived at a point of view of my own.
  • I never felt the need to do what everyone else did. And I wasn’t troubled by the fact that other people were doing other things.
  • I never thought of the urban environment as isolating. I leave these speculations to others. It’s quite possible that my work represents a search for beauty in the most prosaic and ordinary places. One doesn’t have to be in some faraway dreamland in order to find beauty. I realize that the search for beauty is not highly popular these days. Agony, misery and wretchedness, now these are worth perusing.
  • I didn’t photograph people as an example of New York urban something or other. I don’t have a philosophy. I have a camera. I look into the camera and take pictures. My photographs are the tiniest part of what I see that could be photographed. They are fragments of endless possibilities.
  • I don’t plan things. As a rule I prefer to see what happens.
  • I don’t need to belittle the work of present day photography. I see quite often things that I like and admire. I do digital photography myself. Certain people of my generation decided that the past was better than the present. I am not sure that that is true. I don’t want to be one of those people that says the world has come to an end.
  • I didn’t try to communicate any kind of philosophy since I am not a philosopher. I am a photographer. That’s it.
  • I am not immersed in self-admiration. When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at three in the morning and realize that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use. The other way to put it is that I don’t have a talent for narcissism. Or, to put it yet another way, the mirror is not my best friend.

Quotes about LeiterEdit

  • 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.

External linksEdit

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