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4.7 out of 5 stars26
4.7 out of 5 stars
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I was surprised at how small this book was when it arrived (of course, had I checked the Product Details I would have seen that it's about eight inches square) but now having looked through the pages several times I can see why Steidl published it this size. Photographers like Crewdson, Gursky or Shore require a large page because their work is saturated with detail. Here, these wonderful photos are a sliver of city life and presenting them about postcard size is perfect.

Leiter gives us an intimate look at the everyday in what seems to me an almost unique vision. Fred Herzog's colour work during the fifties and early sixties in Vancouver does seem slightly similar especially the vibrant reds that appear in both their work (Fred Herzog Photographs). Leiter's photos though, capture the small fragments of colour and shape on the street which he cleverly takes further by using reflection, shadow and soft focus to make an image that could be considered a sort of photo/painting.

I liked the way he uses commercial street signage (as does Herzog) to provide small areas of bright colour amongst the dark hues and shadows so prevalent in any city. I doubt any of the photos were taken in bright sunlight and even a few that include snow still have a dark hue to them.

The book has a hundred photos printed with a 175 screen on a matt art, one to page, except for two spreads and opposite each photo there is the briefest of caption: location and date. The first edition came out in 2006, second in 2007 and this one to coincide with an Amsterdam exhibition of Leiter's photos. The publication of this edition should bring the high prices of earlier copies down to a more realistic level. All three editions seem identical except for some type changes on the imprint page.

This is one of those books whose size works in harmony with the contents and really helps to bring Leiter's intimate city photos to life.

###LOOK AT SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.
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on 30 December 2009
Looking a Saul Leiter's astonishing photographs, so beautifully reproduced in this excellent collection, it is always a surprise to note the dates in the accompanying captions. This volume covers the period 1948-1960. The conventional wisdom is that colour photography only became fully accepted and exhibited as 'art' during the late nineteen-sixties and early nineteen-seventies. These stunning images make one aware of what a preposterous and narrow minded view that was. Leiter's training as a painter clearly gave him a deep understanding of the compositional importance of colour. He used that understanding to create images that took photography to the edge of abstraction and that display the same affinity for the beauty of the grids and lines of cityscapes as can be found in the work of abstract expressionist painters such as Mark Rothko or Agnes Martin.

Colour itself is as much the subject of these images as the people and scenes they so obliquely depict. The more you study these photographs, the more extraordinary they become - not least for the many paradoxes they contain. Often they look as if they have been snatched quickly. However, the composition and framing are always so meticulous as to contradict the snapshot aesthetic. The detail is often incredibly minimal and the colour extremely muted (see 'Foot on El', 1954). However, what detail there is is always hugely evocative, and despite the subdued colour, these images would not be as powerful in black and white. A friend I showed this book to remarked that one can almost taste and smell these scenes. And that is it in a nutshell. Whenever we experience an emotion it is always accompanied by a sensation, a texture, a sound, a scent, an angle of light - and this is psychological colour that taps into those emotional connections through our sensual memory.

Leiter seems to have been the consummate colour photographer. I am surprised that his work is not more celebrated. And I can't wait to get my hands on the partner volume, Early Black and White, due in March 2010.
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on 14 February 2009
At the risk of sounding simplistic, as a photographer Saul Leiter specialised in two things: photographing the world through the aesthetics of reflections, window distortions and natural framing; and exploiting the chromatic distortion of out of date colour film. Turning the pages of this little square book, Early Color, one is struck by Leiter's determination to render the photograph into a pastoral impression, sometimes to the point where street furniture and people merge into one soft blur. It would be fair to say that Leiter pursued the aesthetic ideal without any political or social agenda. In many of his shots you would have difficulty even fixing the country or the decade without the accompanying caption.

Just like Cartier-Bresson or Lartigue, Leiter began as a painter, using photography first as a sketch book, then later as an art form in itself. Unlike his peers he worked in colour, welcomed aberration and abstraction and paradoxically improved his composition with imperfections.

He was interested in the relationships of colour and shape, to the point that people or identifiable objects could be dispensed with. In 'T 1950' or 'Street Scene, New York 1958', for example, it's difficult to discern anyone or anything in particular, and one is left only with a vague sense of being in a street. This was revolutionary at a time when colour photography (or indeed black and white photography) was considered useful merely as a means of documenting events and factual information.

Leiter was interested in how a person interacts with their world. I hesitate to use the word 'people' because in the majority of his photographs there is only one person. He uses natural framing and colour to isolate that person brilliantly, holding them outside time, giving the illusion that the image seems neither fixed nor fluid. For example, in 'Bus, New York 1953', the snatched view of a silhouetted man reading on a bus seems forever fleeting - so that next time we look he may be gone, hurried away to his destination, leaving the page empty. In 'Phone Call 1957', the window of a busy telephone booth reflects a tram, tricking us at first glance into locating a telephone caller on the bus. In this image particularly, the bus and the man seem to defy stillness and we almost fear the collapse of a juxtaposition of elements even as we look, the tram moving swiftly onward, the man hanging up and walking out. Finally, consider 'Waiter, Paris 1959', a brilliant exposition of the essence of a waiter. Amid the bustle, clatter, and cigarette smoke, this elderly waiter pauses in a rare moment of calm - he is weary and wistful, yet infinitely patient, even as a crass customer calls for attention.

Leiter was never afraid to leave large areas of the image monochrome, interrupt our view with stark foreground or reduce the elements of his pictures to zen-like minimalism. Take for example, 'Tanager Stairs 1954', where a man's neck and hand are caught in the upper frame of a shot taken over almost entirely by the stairs of an escalator, or 'Red Umbrella 1957', a snowy street, empty except for half an umbrella exiting the picture on the right.

Finally, I want to mention two astonishingly beautiful portraits near the end of the book, both apparently of a woman called Soames, to whom Leiter dedicated the book. In the first photograph, 'Lanesville 1958', she is reclining naked in the shadows of what might be a porch, while behind her, through the screens, we see a parched lawn in high summer and the blur of a truck. It's an intimate and touching portrait, well placed at the end of the book close to Leiter's dedication. The second portrait is the last photograph of the book. 'Soames, England 1971' depicts a youthful woman in a fur coat, playfully reclining under a tree with a puppy in her arms. Only in these images does Leiter permit any semblance of sentimentality to enter his art.

Early Color is a book not to be missed. Although Steidl assert it is in second edition, by all accounts it's identical to the first edition, which attracted silly prices on the secondary market not so long ago. Prices are rising again, so if you want this book act quickly!
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VINE VOICEon 20 June 2009
These little Thames and Hudson Photofile photo books are really excellent 'tasters' or budget buys to get an overview of great photographers works. For the money, they never disappoint... a handy format, decent printing, and a fine selection of photos. More expensive books can be bought if you want larger pages, or finer reproduction, but I can't find any criticism for the few pounds these books cost.
Saul Leiter's work was unknown to me until I came upon a few photos online, so I was very pleased to see and learn more of this remarkable street photographer's images in this book. Highly recommended!
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on 31 July 2014
I love these small cheap Thames & Hudson Photofile books I can keep in my bag and read while waiting for a train. This one has some very nice images and well worth buying. I was interested in this for its use of colour photography and to give me some ideas which is has.
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on 13 November 2014
I recently saw a few of Saul Leiters photos and immediately decided I needed a proper introduction to his work. Having previously bought a couple of others from the Photofile series I had no hesitation in making this purchase which in turn has led me to buy Early Colour by Leiter himself.
These are great books for whetting the appetite when you discover a new artist but aren't sure you want to spend bigger bucks.
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on 26 July 2010
A great little introduction to this photographer's work. Although taken many decades ago, these images surprise given their unorthodox and contemporary sensibility. The images are of a photographer who approaches the medium with a painter's eye for colour and layered texture. Kozloff's introduction is a marvellous piece of perceptive writing. If you already have a work by Leiter, t is worth getting this one just for that illuminating text.
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on 29 April 2016
This is an excellent introduction to the amazing art of Saul Leiter, truly the most shy master in the history of photography. He really invented in the Fifties a way in using the color when the photography as an art was completely devoted to black & white: he opened the track to Shore, Eggleston, Ghirri, and so on. His New York pictures are truly magic. The introduction by Max Kozloff describes precisely Leiter's work. There's only one small flaw: talking about the "Self Portrait" (1952) Kozloff cites a coffee mug, but the picture in the book has been cut out and the mug disappeared...
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on 30 May 2016
If you are looking for great text you will be disapointed as the only essay is limited. However, there is lots of stuff out on the internet so this isn't a problem. Colour reproduction is a little soft and doesn't do justice to the original colour slides. This is only meant as an introduction to the artist and as such is worth a place on your bookshelf.
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on 15 May 2013
Saul Leiter has an incredible way of seeing, the images in this book are fantastic, great compositions and amazing use of colours. For truely imaginative imagery from someone who was clearly ahead fo their time this is the book to buy... 5 Stars
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