To kick off the New Year, I went to see In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter, by filmmaker Tomas Leach at the Film Society at Lincoln Center.
Saul Leiter is one of my favorite photographer poets. I was first introduced to Saul by Palmer Davis and I have been entranced, intrigued and in awe of his work ever since. He was shooting color in the early 50’s. You can often find a worn copy of the Photofile paperback, Saul Leiter in my bag. There are two other volumes on my bookshelf of Saul’s work including the aptly named, Saul Leiter: Here’s More, Why Not which has 34 previously unpublished photos chosen by Saul. They never fail to inspire.
Saul shot the streets of NYC for six decades especially the area around his studio on East 10th Street. He was also a painter, and his photographs reflect his painter’s eye: often abstract, often composed off center, often in the vertical, always asking you to see the beauty in the everyday. I find his work filled with a tenderness and quite haunting. They are photos that force you to slow down, let the image emerge, they are meditative, poetic. Saul died in November, which made the movie all that more poignant to watch.
In No Great Hurry is a wonderful gem—an opportunity to spend time with Saul and hear him speak of his work, his first camera (a Detrola from his mother), and to meander with him, his assistant Margit and the camera through the contents of a life lived creating photos, paintings and memories in his studio. Saul has a wonderful humor, he is inquisitive, mischievous and lived a rich life. What could be better than watching him walk the neighborhood shooting, rummaging his crowded studio or pouring over a print! The film captures his gentleness and a melancholy as Saul reflects. One of my favorite sections of the film is when Saul uncovers packages he sent to his companion of decades, Soames Bandry–package he painted. The film is intimate and ordinary. I hope you will see it.
Of his photos, Saul says, “My photographs are meant to tickle your left ear…lightly.”
At one point in the documentary, Saul says with a chuckle that he was hoping to be forgotten. Lucky for us all that he has not and will.
Saul Leiter is represented by the Howard Greenberg Gallery.