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Margit Erb – Director, Saul Leiter Foundation

Margit Erb – Director, Saul Leiter Foundation


– Hello and welcome to
the i3 lecture series hosted by the Masters in
Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts. We are thrilled to welcome Margit Erb as tonight’s guest speaker. Margit is the founder and director of Saul Leiter Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the art and legacy of Saul Leiter, a true pioneer of color photography. Starting in 1996, Margit
closely assisted Leiter for over 18 years. She has worked on several
books for the artist, including Saul Leiter, Early Color and Saul Leiter, Early Black and White. In 2012, she helped produce the exhibition Saul Leiter Retrospective
at the House of Photography, Deichtorhallen Hamburg. She’s co-producer of the the film Saul Leiter In No Great
Hurry, released in 2013. Today Margit maintains
Leiter’s extensive archive located in his former home
in Manhattan’s East Village, and she is currently working
on a digital catalogue raisonne and several upcoming
publications on Leiter’s art. So please help me in welcoming Margit Erb to our lecture series. (audience applauds) – Thank you, thank you, thank you. I am so happy to be here and I’ve really enjoyed putting together some images of you all to see tonight, and I heard that this
crowd likes pictures, and it looks like,
yeah, looks like you do. I’ve got lots of pictures. Let’s get to it. I’m pleased to show you images from Saul’s archive today. My hope is that these
images will reveal to you a little bit about who Saul was. And perhaps give you
a better understanding of his archive and its future. So if you can imagine,
this talk is kind of like a large puzzle with many pieces, so it may first appear a little abstract, but bear with me. I’ll go back and forth between
recent history, the past the future, and in the end I
hope that you’ll leave here with a really more complete picture of a very special artist. Let’s get started by going way back, say, an, oh mere 70 years. And it’s 1946. A 23 year old Saul Leiter
has quit rabbinical school and moved to New York
City to pursue painting. What possessed him to
make such a break for it? And what gave him the idea
that he actually might survive? He defied his father, he defied
his family’s expectations that he would become a studied rabbi. He takes a bus. He lands in New York. His mother sends him
some money infrequently. He has a sweet and concerned
Aunt Esther in Brooklyn who may have fed him a dinner or two. He sleeps in Central Park a few times. He manages to rent a
series of unfurnished rooms and sleeps on floors. He tries his hand as a meat
packer and a messenger boy. He paints with gouache and casein on paper placed on the floors of his various rooms. His friend, a painter
named Richard Pousette-Dart gives him the idea to pick up a camera as a way to make money. Later, also his friend,
the photographer Jean Smith gives him a camera and the
rest, they say, is history or in Saul’s case, a mystery. Now let’s flash forward several decades, and starting in 2006, after a life mostly in obscurity, Saul’s work has experienced
a surge of popularity. Especially his color work. Today he is considered by many to be one of the great masters of photography and possibly even one
of the great colorists of the 20th century. In the last eight years of his life, Saul experienced a sort of funny limelight full of world-wide admirations. In his 80s he saw an appreciation that he had never, had certainly not asked for, not even waited for, but
nevertheless rightfully deserved for so many years. To many still, Saul Leiter
remains a mysterious character, not well-explained, not easily explained. An artist who, in the last few years seems to have suddenly risen to fame. So who was Saul Leiter? And where has he been? These are the types of
questions I most often get when speaking with audiences today. I don’t know if you can recognize it, but it’s actually Veselka
in the East Village. It’s hard to even begin
describing Saul as a person. Being with Saul was a
resonating experience. He was full of insight, he was wise, funny, lovable, superbly smart. The best conversations you’ve ever had. He could quickly put you in your place, so you had to be careful
with your opinions and be sure to explain yourself well. He was so much fun to goof around with. He could crack up laughing to such a point that you would worry he might pass out. He had a slow and
plodding way of speaking, and actually I have a little bit of audio. This is Saul talking about
the history of color in art. And it was something that he
liked to talk about a lot. It’s just about a minute. – [Voiceover] I mean the history of art from the beginning of time
is a history of color. The great Renaissance paintings, the great Impressionist
paintings, the great, they’re full of color. Degas said somewhere he’d
like to spend all of his, I think he said that
he would like to spend his lifetime drawing just a hand in black and white. Something like that. But the fact remains that he did make thousands of paintings of color. I think the art world is
afflicted with mistaken notions during certain periods, and they become very prevalent, and people take them very seriously, and then eventually they’re abandoned and seen as rather silly and unimportant. Color has always aroused suspicion in the minds of certain people. (audience chuckles) – Food for thought. So to continue describing Saul, I think it’s important to recognize that he was a painter at heart. Saul had a passion and
an incredible knowledge of art history. He was completely self-taught and would’ve made a great
artist history professor. Saul loved his paint brushes, but he also loved cameras. He was an embracer of new technologies. Saul was a great interviewer and interviewed all of those
who dared to be interviewed. It was a bit like falling
into a trap for some. In the last few years of his life, we had journalists coming and sitting in this very chair with this very view and I think some of them
were quite intimidated. Saul had a chaotic work environment and yet everything had its place. Saul lived in the same apartment in East Village for 60 years. He moved into his apartment in 1953. Most of his photographs were taken in a few blocks’ radius of this apartment. He viewed life simply, even though things weren’t always simple for him. Saul was my close friend for 18 years. I started working for
Howard Greenberg Gallery in 1995 and I became
Saul’s representative. I took full responsibility for Saul. And not just in the business
way, but personally, too. I realized early on
that what was very easy for me to do helped him greatly. And I helped him over some bumps just by being there. The fame and success
and the public attention came much later and toward
the end of our friendship. I get to a special turning
point in Saul’s life. In 1995, Saul was given funding from the Ilford Paper Company to print with Philippe Laumont, one of the world’s great printers who had a lab here in New York. Saul and Philippe worked for many years printing from Saul’s early
slides from the 1950s. So that was Kodachrome,
Ectochrome, Anscochrome. Together they created
a portfolio of prints, mostly of New York street scenes, but also some of Paris and London and some of Saul’s 60s fashion work. This time in the art world, photo galleries almost
never exhibited color. Museums like The Modern
were a bit more daring and were having some color exhibitions. However, collectors and auction houses were largely staying away from color. Nowadays with everything in color, it’s hard to believe. It is these images by
Saul that have changed our previous understanding of the history of color photography. This is the first of a few
slideshows that are in my talk. And I think the word
slideshow is actually, the word slideshow are
actually important here because this was how these
images were originally shown. So if you can imagine there’s
a projector behind all of us, and it’s whirling away
and it’s making sounds as the slides go in and
out of the machines, room’s dark, and that’s what we see. Close, similar to what
we have in front of us. This is the last image
for this particular part. I actually just came
across this image today. It’s never been printed
in photographic form, it’s never been published before. It was just on a hard drive that Philippe Laumont gave to me. The Howard Greenberg Gallery exhibited Saul’s work twice in the 90s with a good deal of success
and with wonderful reviews. But when his work was off the walls, it seemed like he was instantly forgotten. We tried to get Saul a book, tried to get him a book made and it ran into a series, and ran into a series of
publishers who actually misled us. But Saul was used to being ignored. He lived with his partner, a lovely lady and talented
painter named Soames Bantry. Together they had zero money, except for the money
loaned to them by friends. Saul painted and photographed daily. And things remained like
this for many years. And then. Sometimes in this world, a
book can change everything. This is Saul’s little book of color, the 2006 book that changed
the very conversation about the use of color in photography. This book created a spectacular
twist of fate for Saul. And the art world was
sent scratching its head. Who was this man, and how could possibly have taken all these color photographs, going as far back as 1948? Saul became famous over night. He was yanked into the limelight, seemingly against his will, and it is now believed
that his work in color and photography altered the curriculum of photo history and possibly the history of abstract expressionism. The only requisite that Saul
had for this little book was that it be about this big so that it could fit on his night stand. Saul’s new found fame
rested lightly on him. Within about a month of
the book being published we had calls from Europe,
curators in Europe. Within a month he had made enough sales to turn his loans around. I think fame was often a source
of entertainment for him. I don’t know if you can catch that, but that’s sort of their view, and then this is Saul’s picture is of all the press in Paris. I think sometimes fame
was an invasion for Saul. Eventually Saul refused to be interviewed. I think it just became
frustrating for him. There were too many requests. And in fact, Annie Leibovitz called up and asked to
photograph Saul for Vanity Fair. He refused with some strong words. After the book came out, the galleries started to really sell his work for the first time. Life for Saul did not change that much. He was able to pay his bills, he was prolific every day. He would often come to the door with a paintbrush in his hands. His daily life was spent painting, drinking coffee, a lot of coffee, and reading a lot of books. He carried his camera
everywhere, he took pictures. He frequented the Strand bookstore and his favorite Starbucks
on Second Avenue. He had lunch with friends. Once a week he would take a
bus to visit me in the gallery and one day a week I
would come to his studio and work for him. Saul passed away on November 26, 2013, one week before his 90th birthday. His obituary came out in the New York Times on Thanksgiving Day. Losing Saul was a big blow for me. Fortunately the lawyers and
the executors of the estate permitted me to work in
the apartment from day one. I was given the keys and I was handed a great responsibility to get things organized and
keep things going, as it were. Unlocking the apartment on that first day gave me a sinking, lonely feeling. But the early days of numbness and ache turned into weeks and months of making order out of disorder. I received lots of help
from a family of friends, many of whom are here tonight. And launching myself, even
if it was somewhat blindly into this huge responsibility
was a welcomed distraction. Following Saul’s directives in his will, and knowing his wishes, I was able to form the Saul
Leiter Foundation in 2014. The Foundation, which
includes Saul’s archive, is located today in Saul’s former home. I’m sure you can all read that, but I’ll also read it for you. The Saul Leiter Foundation is dedicated to preserving the art
of American photographer and painter Saul Leiter. The Foundation maintains
Leiter’s life’s work and supports activities
to advance his legacy through exhibitions,
books, and other media. Sounds pretty simple. Once the Foundation was in place, the archive’s helpers and
I felt even more courageous to handle the urgent tasks at hand. Which was creating
permanent archival storage and organization for prints, negatives, slides, and paintings. And saving ephemera, that’s a word, that if you don’t know it, I’ll teach you that word tonight. That included countless items like cameras, slide projectors,
dark room supplies, studio equipment, date books, receipts going back to, what was it, Anders, like ’52? (audience member responds) (Margit and audience laugh) Invoices, correspondence, family photos, typewriters, we found I think
four or five typewriters. Paintbrushes, pens, Super 8 film, audiotapes, 3,000 books, all items that one day might be used as interpretive keys, that’s another word for ephemera that I learned this weekend when I was reading that article about Bob Dylan and the sale and donation to University of Tulsa. It’s an interesting article
if you haven’t read it. So interpretive keys
to understanding Saul. There were many days that we did not know where to begin. Someone came in and told me, “You know, you should
really save Saul’s stove, “because that’s where his darkroom was, “that’s where the enlarger sat on. “You should really save the stove.” And I looked at the
stove and it was covered with paint and it looked like it weighed about 600 pounds. So I didn’t, I couldn’t. (audience sighs and giggles) So you like pictures of kids, yeah me too. Almost right away we discovered boxes of early photos of Saul
and his family members that he had carefully
kept all these years. And that’s Saul when he was 71 years old and he was 89 when he died. Never knew Saul as his younger self, and yet he was easily recognizable to me. The photos I discovered
expanded the many stories that he had told me himself. For example, in 1931, when Saul was eight, he spent a year in Vienna with his mother and his two siblings, David and Debbie. He visited his grandparents and his father’s family in Poland as well. I think you realize that that’s Saul on your right side, yeah. Saul took up painting at 16 years old. His mother thought it would be a fine and acceptable hobby and was okay if he used
the top floor of the house, of course only after his studies in the Talmud were completed for the day. When no one was supervising him, Saul snuck into the library at
the University of Pittsburgh and launched himself on a personal voyage through the history of art. European, American, African, he especially loved French Impressionism. He loved Picasso, Manet, Monet, Matisse. His greatest love was for
the Post-Impressionists Bernard and Vuillard. He also loved Japanese art
and Japanese calligraphy. Saul’s discoveries in the library may have given him a window to the world that changed his life. Saul once told me that he felt that Japanese calligraphy
was the highest form of art. Saul took up photography
as a teenager in the 1930s. He begged his mother for a detrola, which was a plastic camera. And she succumbs, according to Saul. His first model and his
primary model for many years was his sister Deborah. And actually this is a treat
especially for you all tonight. These are the first time that these images have probably ever been seen. Saul always said that he was
not born in this country. He was born in his father’s house. And that’s Saul on your left, of course. Jewish Orthodoxy is a dynastic culture. The family is center of the universe, and the father is king. Saul’s father was a
great Talmudic scholar, with published ratings from age 13 on. Saul’s father was made a
rabbi at the age of 18. He was fluent in seven languages. He had an international reputation and is still remembered today in the Jewish Orthodox community. He was betrayed when Saul
left rabbinical school to become an artist in New York. And to him, and his world, photography was akin to pornography. Really, there was never a reconciliation. Saul came from a generation of rabbis. Brothers, father, uncles, grandfather, great grandfather, and all the
way back hundreds of years. By the way, all of these
men died in the Holocaust, except for Saul’s father, which is on your left. And that’s Saul’s
grandfather on your right, who died in Poland. A formal education had
been difficult for Saul, and this is one of my
favorite images of Saul because he looks like he’s in prison, or about to go to prison. While he excelled in his
studies, achieving all As, and we found report
cards with all of his As all the way back through
elementary school, he was a restless student. He attended public school
in Pittsburgh during the day and in the early morning before school, he studied with a Hebrew tutor, and in the hours after school, he studied with a Talmudic tutor. Saul said that his extracurricular work added up to an extra four to five hours of study a day. He became fluent in Hebrew
and efficient in German. At age 18 Saul enrolled in
the University of Pittsburgh, but dropped out after the first semester. After that, his father convinced him to go to rabbinical school in Cleveland. He dropped out again and returned to Pittsburgh
after only one year. According to Saul, his parents believed they had a real situation on their hands. Yeah, he looks like a real
situation in that picture. All this time in the early 40s, Saul kept painting and
exhibiting in Pittsburgh and in Cleveland. One fateful day, a painting of his was bought by these two men, strangers visiting Pittsburgh
from New York City. These two men were Merce Cunningham and John Cage. Kind of a strange coincidence, I mean it’s just remarkable. These two men may have given Saul the moment and the courage in 1946 to leave home, jump on a bus, and move to
New York City to be an artist. I don’t know after that how Saul became reacquainted, or acquainted
with Merce Cunningham and John Cage. We have seen several
photographs of the two of them in rehearsal spaces, and one of John Cage’s
feet behind a piano, so I know that he became reacquainted for at least a few years and then somehow they then got out of touch. One of the many surprises I had in organizing Saul’s
work after his passing was the discovery of a
vast number of images that he printed in black and white. Saul had previously, before
his little book came out, been known as a New York
School photographer. He still is. He’s included in Jane
Livingston’s New York School book, which was a book that grouped together I think nine or 12 photographers from 1936 to 63, and they were known
for their use of light, use of high speed film, and sort of their snapshot aesthetic. But I still think that Saul
stands outside of that group. Other members of the New York School I’m sure some of you know about are Robert Frank, William Klein, Diane Arbus. I don’t know if any of
you saw the film Carol, but Mary Engal was just
reminding me about it. There’s actually a shot in that movie that’s almost exactly like this. And Todd Haynes, the director said that he had used Saul’s influence in the cinematography of that movie. Recently we completed the cataloging of Saul’s fashion work in print. In 1957, Saul took a small sampling of his color slides to
meet with Henry Wolf, who was then the art director of Esquire. Every month Esquire would
have a portfolio review day. You can make an appointment and meet with an art director and show your work. It’s hard to believe that
a 34 year old Saul Leiter managed to find his way
to the offices of Esquire. My friend Robert Benton
who was associate at Esquire that day, 1957, describes Saul’s appearance
at the office door. Secretary had rung him through. He appeared at the front door, and Benton describes Saul as
looking like an unmade bed. (audience chuckles) Saul’s fashion career took off and lasted almost two decades, primarily working for his friend Henry at Harper’s Bazaar. Saul was hugely successful
as a fashion photographer. He traveled to France, the UK, Mexico, he did hundreds of covers and spreads for Harper’s Bazaar alongside
Richard Avedon and Hiro. And it was those three men that I’m told dominated the pages of Harper’s
Bazaar for almost a decade. Oh, by the way, I’ll just quickly add that this was a cover
that he did for Harper’s. He gave the slide to his friend Henry, he said, “Henry, I’m sorry, “but some of it got exposed. “It was the end of the film and that’s why “there’s this big band of color light.” And Henry looked at it and said, “That is a brilliant cover,
I’m going to use it.” And to me it’s just a wonderful example of a collaboration between an art director and a photographer. And also a wonderful result
of Saul accepting failures in his use of film and his acceptance of outdated film. That’s his partner Soames
Bantry, by the way. She passed away in 2002. Unfortunately, and
missed his rise to fame. But she always knew that he was good. Saul left the fashion world, or maybe a way of saying
it is that he defected. One day, he looked up from his camera and saw behind him a dozen
people supervising his work. My friend Robert Benton
tells the story well. There were art directors, designers, executives and their assistants, and their assistants’ assistants. The story goes that Saul took his cameras and walked off the set. And by doing this, he turned
his back on financial stability almost for the rest of his life. I think for Saul there
was no choice about it. He was not about to
collaborate with bureaucracy. This is yet another area
of Saul’s contribution in photography that has
yet to be fully seen. We’ve cataloged about 1,000 prints. There are probably about 200,000 slides that sit in cold storage today waiting to be organized and seen. So what happened to Saul’s
idea of becoming a painter? Well he never stopped painting. He painted throughout his life. He developed, he evolved, he was prolific. Ideally, he did everything
an artist could hope to do. He made thousands of paintings. However his paintings have
rarely been seen or sold. He had a few exhibitions early in his 50s but sold only about 10
paintings in his lifetime. Today his entire painting career, a mere 70 years, is almost all intact. The small staff at the archives
spent a year and a half photographing and cataloging
all these paintings. We just finished in January
and we are now working with an appraiser who’s
helping us understand Saul’s place as painter and
perhaps his future recognition. We think the world still
has yet another surprise coming from Saul Leiter. His paintings are beautiful, bold, emotional, stunning, sophisticated. His sketchbooks are
nothing less than sublime. But that’s just our opinion. In Saul’s quiet time, after
his fashion career was over, in the 1970s and through the 1990s, he took to painting his photographs. The gallery and I sold these painted nudes over the years but had no idea
of the quantity that existed. We found many of these
inside Saul’s library, inside his books, as if they were intended
to live only as bookmarks. Saul, I’m gonna show you a
few more painted nudes, but Saul photographed
the nude extensively, going back to his early
days in photography, and throughout the 60s. Shooting in black and white, not in color. And these are gelatin silver prints. Most of them are less
than eight by 10 inches, painted over with gouache and casein. Preservation is still a
primary goal and activity for the Foundation, for today and still most
urgent part of our mission. Saul had many cameras in his lifetime. He rarely sold one. So today all of his cameras
are almost all together. And I think as you look
through these next few slides that I’m going to show you, think about how, when
Saul used these cameras, they were new technology. They weren’t retro technology,
they were new for the period. And then technology, as it does, advanced, and he adopted new cameras and he took on new technology. But his lifetime in photography spans from the 40s until 2013, so just think about that as you’re looking at what these, the range of cameras here reflects. Many, many Leicas, which
he used predominately in the 50s. A Rollei. Lots and lots of Canons, which we see him using in pictures and self portraits
through the 80s and 90s. And then this incredible. In 2004 when Saul had absolutely no money, Olympus gives him a digital SLR. It probably weighed about 20 pounds. And they also gave him $10,000 in funding that he could use whenever he wanted. And that really helped Saul at that point. He gave the camera to me and
I took it home for the weekend and I learned how to use it. I have never used myself. This is 2004, I had not used
a digital camera before. Came back the next week,
showed him how to use it. He then went on to buy 25 more digital cameras in his lifetime and every time he bought one I went home, I learned how to use it, I came back, I taught him how to use it. We kept this camera, but the rest of the digital cameras, except for a few, I kept one myself, we donated to ICP. The contents of his kitchen darkroom have been preserved for future ephemera, there’s that word again, for research and use in exhibitions. So you may see it one day,
maybe at ICP or somewhere. Saul’s faithful light table. This is where early color was created. This is a small sampling of
maybe two suitcases worth of undeveloped film. If you look closely you’ll see, let’s see, along the bottom
you see black and white film very early in the 40s. You see one Kodachrome box
that says September 1958. So this is all undeveloped film. So Saul took the pictures, came home, took it out of the
camera, put it in a bag, and there it stood. Nothing happened to it. The dilemma now is that no
one develops Kodachrome film. The last lab shut down many years ago. This film cannot be developed now. There is one man I heard
in Rochester who said he could develop it, but it would be in black and white. It’s probably not gonna happen. It’s a bit of a race against time for some of the film which we can develop, like the black and white film. The developed negatives, now this is another race against time. These are glassine envelopes
that the negatives are in and as far as we can tell, they haven’t hurt or they
don’t have that burnt look, they haven’t hurt the negatives, but I’m told that eventually
they all have to come out of the negative sleeves
and into new sleeves. I did a quick calculation when
I was at the APAG Conference at ICP and I realized that we would have to get 12,000 envelopes. So slide storage has gone
from looking like this To this, which is an
air-conditioned storage space in Lower Manhattan. Those are boxes of slides. Maybe 300,000 slides. And I’m told that
air-conditioned storage space is not good enough, it actually
needs to be in a freezer. We’re getting there. The photographs went from
being stored like this to being stored like this in one of our many secure and
well-insured storage areas. And by the way, I registered the archive as an art heritage site. And supposedly if there’s
a flood on East 10th Street or a fire or something, that they will actually come
and help you save the art. I don’t know if they’re
gonna come in a canoe, an SUV, I don’t know. But someone’s supposed to come. Digitizing. Today we are actively photographing and photographing. And cataloging into a digital database with the idea that one
day all of Saul’s art will be captured in this digital database. It’s called a catalogue,
almost like a catalogue digital catalogue raisonne. It gives us wonderful
abilities to track location, size, signage, condition, ownership, location, categories, it’s wonderful. The Saul Leiter Foundation
hopes to help those who hope to do research
on Saul and his art and hope that one day they will have the opportunity to put him into a context of their own, whether they be journalists or writers. Or curators. There’s a wonderful collection
if you don’t know of it yet at FIT, of all the
Harper’s Bazaar magazines that were ever published. We’re in the last stages of creating a comprehensive website, which may be an excellent place to start. After Early Color there were five books produced for Saul in his lifetime. In 2013, I’m sorry, 2014, the great German publisher put out Saul Leiter, Early Black and White, which was in two volumes. And it was wonderful
because the publisher, Gerhard Steidl had someone place the books in my hands the moment I got off stage
talking at Saul’s memorial. That was a lovely gesture. Last year we created a book
of Saul’s painted nudes, you’ll remember the bookmarks. And now, with the help of
my co-editor Robert Benton, we are working on another book based on Saul’s nudes
and intimate portraits. And I think the working
title seems to be now Saul Leiter in my Room. In 2008 the Howard Greenberg Gallery was contacted by a young
and talented filmmaker named Thomas Leach and a film was made. Saul would never have done
a film with just anyone. And the film would never have been done if it hadn’t been for Thomas’ patience, his flexibility and also
his sensitivity toward Saul. Thomas was incredibly eager to please Saul and never pushed him. It actually took Thomas
and I almost a year to convince Saul to do the film. In the end, his conditions
were put us very simply. He had to meet Thomas first, so Thomas flew over from London to have a meeting over coffee. And absolutely no film crew. No lighting person, no audio technician. It was just to be Saul and Thomas and sometimes me in the background. A digital SLR was used with a remote mic. Sometimes Thomas was only allowed to film for 20 minutes
and sometimes a few hours, each time Thomas had to
fly over form London. He let Saul be totally in control and promised not to release the film unless Saul approved. Now think about it, that is a huge risk for a filmmaker to take. Thankfully in 2012 Saul watched the film and gave Thomas the go-ahead. And actually there’s a part in the film where Saul looks straight into the camera, he says, “I actually haven’t
given you permission yet “to bring out this film.” It’s this wonderful part in the movie. We’ve gone on in the
years since Saul’s passing and had five exhibitions. One was at Toulouse in France. It was just 30 photographs
and they had 20,000 visitors within 10 days. Howard Greenberg Gallery
put on an exhibition of the early black and white work. You couldn’t even find that online. Roger Szmulewicz in Antwerp did an early black and white show. A year ago in Frankfurt, they did an exhibition at the forum there. And now an exhibition at
the Photographer’s Gallery in London, which is a
small museum in Soho. I think it’s about 120 images, including paintings and the painted nudes. At the opening there were
800 people there in January. The first Saturday they had 1,700 people in a room maybe just twice
the size of this room. They actually had a crowd control issue where they had one vatrine that was broken and one wall that was damaged. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh but, I love the fact that people
are making a mad rush to Saul. Today Saul’s former home
and studio hold his archive and is an office for the Foundation. It is a very busy place with
projects going on all the time. And as you may now have come to understand the archive cannot survive on its own. It requires attention and love. Saul’s special archive has been tended to by more than just me. It has had the attention of a small group of dedicated helpers, many of which are here tonight, who have tended to and
protected every item in it. And there are many others, including the Foundation’s board as well as a strong
circle of professionals who deserve credit for guiding the archive safely into the future. The discoveries and inspirations
we find here are endless and we can only hope that the world will continue to agree. And before I let you go for the night, I’ve given this talk a few times and I always like in the end to sort of bring Saul out and give him the final word. Nothing seems more appropriate. When it came to making
up a title for the film, Thomas, like me, felt that being with Saul was an educational experience. An enlightenment in the way
that Saul became our teacher and that our view of life
was never to be the same. So in the end, Saul did not become a rabbi as his family had expected him to, but became instead an entirely different type of spiritual leader. So finally Thomas came up with
the very appropriate title In No Great Hurry, 13 Lessons
in Live with Saul Leiter. I have a five minute
clip here to show you. And Saul talks about his
work, again, in color and his use of color slide film, and at the end of the clip you’ll see Saul and me cleaning up. At one point Saul became
committed to the idea of cleaning up, which
I have always thought was one of his last heroic acts. (audience chuckles) – Well, at some point I began to use color because and I discovered
that they came in boxes, you know you bought a roll of color. You had it developed, you didn’t have to, you didn’t have to cut it up, it already, it came in
little boxes, slides, and that was quite nice. And I liked what I saw. I enjoyed looking at some
of my color pictures. I thought they were rather nice. And so I saw nothing wrong, and of course some people thought it was a waste of time, that I was taking color pictures, what are you going to do
with all these slides? Why don’t you get rid of them? Why don’t you this, why don’t you that. – [Voiceover] What did you do with them? – Well I kept them in cabinets. There was a fire when a lot of them were sprayed. But the point is I enjoyed doing it and I didn’t see, I
didn’t share the opinion of those people. And the truth of the matter is, there have always been
people who like color. It’s not as if I was the only person. I’ve been described as being a pioneer. Am I a pioneer? I don’t know that I’m a pioneer. I think eventually it’ll turn out that many people did color. I mean I think if you know enough about photography you realize that nothing is really that new. If you really knew what has been done and tried by other people you’d realize that nothing is terribly new. – [Voiceover] Does it annoy you that people call you a pioneer? – No, I’m not annoyed. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m part of this small group. I don’t know, I don’t care. I don’t mind one way or the other. (Saul and Thomas laugh) (wistful piano music) There’s too much, isn’t there? – [Margit] There’s a lot. What’s this? (Saul talks quietly) – What? – It’s empty except for these rusty cords. – Yeah. It’s connected to this. – Yup. – He’s photographing us. What is he doing? That maniac. It’s all Margit’s fault. – It’s my fault? – Yeah, it’s all your fault. You’re nice to people and it’s your fault. I bought this set, I like these. These are all English. I think it was 48 cents, which I thought was reasonable. – [Margit] Are those slides? – [Saul] What? – Are they slides? – No, they’re boxes from things that Soames and I bought. See? But they’re all empty but I
don’t wanna throw them away. – Okay. – You can take them upstairs. This kind of thing can be thrown out. It’s Haverstick. He’s documented the most sordid aspects of my life. (wistful piano music) – I said Saul was gonna
get the last word, but, I just wanted to say this. Watching my friend Saul
achieve the admiration that he always deserved has
given me endless pleasure. It’s a great story to tell and I am so fortunate
to be able to tell it. So thank you all for letting me share this story with you tonight. I appreciate it, thank you. (audience applauds) – [Voiceover] I’m
curious about the family. Did he keep up his relationship with them? Specifically his sister? – His sister unfortunately
had a mental illness and was institutionalized, probably when she was 30 years old. So he wasn’t able to keep up with her. His mother wrote him
letters as far as we can see throughout his lifetime. And when she passed away, he was there. But the other family
members no, not so much. Oh I just wanted to say before we go on to the next question, that I thought I had lost this print of, well there was only one print. I thought I’d lost this image, and we’d been looking for
it for an entire year, because a publisher in
Canada wants to use it as a frontispiece. And we’d been looking, looking, looking, and I’ve just been pulling my hear out. And today Anders who’s this here, went down in a basement locker, looked in an old family photo album, and there it was. So he’s back, the man with a green shirt. So we’re really happy. I mean I don’t know what you think, but I really believe this
might be an early selfie. – [Voiceover] I’ve always been struck by his unique style and I find it almost meditative. And I wonder, in the time
that you spent with him, in terms of his theory of photography or what he was trying to capture, what did you learn that
kind of made up his style? – I think I once asked Saul. I said, “Is this a form
of meditation for you? “Every day you’re just painting
and you’re photographing “and you’re constantly in this mode of, “it seems almost meditation. “You’re present, you’re very present.” I don’t think he wanted to
accept the word meditate, so he said, “No, no, no,
that’s not the word.” But I think Saul was
a very present person. And I think that he was always inspired by the littlest things
in the world around him. He often referred to those little things as being beauty. And I think the photographs
certainly speak to that, yeah. – [Voiceover] Margit, we’re at a school, and obviously Saul had his opinions. I would like to know, and I love that he bought like
two dozen digital cameras, I think that’s great. Kodak thanks him, too. But what advice would he
give to students nowadays? – Ooh. Well he might give you a really
sarcastic answer right away. He would say, “Get out!” Or something. I think he would probably say now, if he had a chance to
look back on all of this, is just to go out into your world, your daily life, even if
it’s just a few blocks around where you live and look at things. That’s what I think he would say. – [Voiceover] Of course in the back row. Thank you. – [Voiceover] Hi, I don’t
really have a question. But I just wanna say
that being in this talk reminds me of Berenice Abbott
and Eugene Atget a lot, having someone to look after the entire lifetime’s work. It’s a lot of work and
thank you for doing it, and I think the work that
you’re doing is very valuable. – Aw, well thank you. That’s so nice, I appreciate it. – [Voiceover] Was his work affected at all by the loss of Soames? Like did he go through a
period where it affected him in his ability to photograph and paint? Or did he just work through it? – No, thanks Greg,
that’s a great question. So Soames passed away in 2002. Saul still was in a long
period of having no money. I know that he painted during that time. He sort of slowed down taking photographs. But then something remarkable happened, a new technology kind of found him, and it was that SLR that
Olympus had given him and he realized that he
could take a photograph and turn the camera around and look at the back of it. Not quite like slide film because slide film to
him was also incredible in the 40s because he
could take a picture, he could send it to Eastman Kodak, and they would send it back and it would already be a positive. He didn’t have to go into a darkroom. It was already a positive, so he was able to see his work right away. And I think digital photography, and I have to mention this because this is a series about
digital masters, right? I think inspired him to return
in a way to photography. So he took up shooting again every day. He always carried a digital camera with him after that point. He didn’t have a film camera that you saw him with. They were still around, of course. I have to add, though, that
I think that the photographs that he took digitally are the same Saul-inspired
stylistic images, his same sophistication
that he had 50 years earlier working with in analog film, so I don’t think his style changed. I think he was really consistent that way. – [Voiceover] Why should he change? – I don’t know, sometimes you
look at an artist in a museum and you see stages that they go through and they change. They don’t necessarily become worse, but they might evolve, they
become something different. – [Voiceover] It was the
change because the change– – The world has changed. – [Voiceover] But it’s not
because it’s a digital, digital I mean. – Yes. – [Voiceover] If you have
a style, you have a style. If you change your style, but I don’t think
digital should make you– – No, no, I didn’t mean to say that. I meant to say that you’d think maybe in the last 20 years of his life, he might be a different
kind of photographer, but he wasn’t. He really remained consistent. The world changed, but
he remained consistent, even in digital, yeah,
absolutely agree with you. – [Voiceover] I have a
question about his family because… His father, you said just gave up on him? – Yes. – [Voiceover] Was his father, I understand he as a Orthodox. Was he a Satmar, or– – I don’t know that term. They weren’t Hasidic,
they were just very, very Orthodox. They practiced all the holidays and they wore the Orthodox– – [Voiceover] Alright, but
there is two movements, and then you speak about the Satmar. They will actually almost sit shiva on somebody that moves away from a– – His father did that, yes. – [Voiceover] His father sat shiva on him? – Yes. Not shiva, but the other word for it, the rights for a funeral, yeah. – [Voiceover] I have two questions Margit. When he started doing digital work and he ended up with a digital file, who took the file and did what? I don’t imagine he went into Photoshop and worked with the files. So that’s the first question and the second question is what are you going to do with his recent images? We all know his work from
the 50s, 60s, and 70s, but what are you going to do with the work he did the last
five years of his life? – Yes, okay, okay. The digital files. He kept them of course on all of the cards, and when his card was
full, he took the card out, he put it away, got a new card. It’s a good thing, you should do that. We did back them up at one point because we were getting
a little bit worried. And at one point he had a friend, a former assistant in California who put it all on, on little print out sheets that
Saul could look in a binder. Saul had a laptop but it was hard for him
to figure out how to use. Oh, I’m stepping on that again. He took, in the end, 5,000, I think more than 5,000
photographs digitally from working 2004 until, yeah, until he passed away. So almost 10 years. We printed some of those
with Philippe Laumont, and they were included in
the Hamburg show in 2012, maybe five or six of them. So he did get to printing just a few of them. But again, just the tip of the iceberg. And also his, to go back into his work in color overall, he’s always said that
the world had only seen a tip of the iceberg. And it’s true, the world has only seen maybe 200 images or 300 images in color, and we have 300,000 slides. The last year of his life he put together a show of images that had
never been printed before. Not digitally, but in analog. And we sat upstairs, there’s a picture that I showed here, and he’s sitting at the light table and he just selected what was within reach from a room full of slides. He picked out 100 and then
he ended up printing 36 with Philippe Laumont as Fuji Art archive prints and they became part of
an exhibition in Antwerp. He was actively, so the last two questions,
which are great, he was actively working in photography, which was wonderful for him. – Well I’d like to thank you very much. – [Margit] My pleasure. – This is very inspirational. (audience applauds) – Thank you very much,
thank you all for coming.

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