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Photo Poche : Saul Leiter


Since 2022, the year it celebrated its fortieth anniversary, Photo Poche has had a makeover. Gone is the iconic black cover, and now each issue is clad in light: a white background bordered by colour. The new identity, designed by Wijntje van Rooijen and Pierre Péronnet, is intended to make the collection easier to read. The transformation also provides an opportunity to revisit older editions. Issue 113, devoted to Saul Leiter, is a case in point. Revised and expanded, this new edition came out in July 2023, to coincide with the superb retrospective devoted to him at the Rencontres d’Arles.

In sixty-four photographs, the book conveys the essence of Saul Leiter’s genius. This Midas of photography was capable of turning everything he touched into gold, from street photography to portraits, fashion, nudes and still life. The American photographer made each genre his own, shaking up its codes, playing like a magician with frame and composition, lines and shapes, reflections and transparencies. The glances he captured force us to stop, while his colours are an inexhaustible source of fascination. He is a pioneer and an undeniable master.

Where does this innate sense of colour come from? His first love of painting? At the age of 20, Saul Leiter left his native Pittsburgh and rabbinical studies for a career as a painter in New York. He discovered Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and the painters of abstract expressionism. He nevertheless turned to photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson’s major exhibition inspired him to immortalize the street. Along with Louis Faurer, Sid Grossman and Leon Levinstein, he contributed to the fleeting street photography movement.

Saul Leiter has not forgotten his sensitivity to the third art, and it is certainly his passion for the nabi Édouard Vuillard that has had the greatest influence on his use of colour. Veritable explosions of colour, his shots have the effect of a painting on the verge of abstraction. He approached the street as a painter-poet rather than a documentary photographer. And when he immortalized the city in black and white, it’s with the same poetic élan and eye for detail.

In the introductory text to this book, the American art historian Max Kozloff offers a subtle analysis of Saul Leiter’s work through a number of selected pieces. In particular, he recounts the photographer’s notorious discretion. His belated fame allowed him to remain anonymous, as he was so fond of doing. Without it, he would not have been able to appropriate the street and its souls with such creativity.


Saul Leiter

In the Photo Poche collection, n°113
Editions Actes Sud, 2023
144 pages
ISBN : 978-2-330-17889-5
13,90 €
Available in good bookshops and online

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