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This Week’s Photo – Snow – Saul Leiter

This week’s photo that I have chosen is a Saul Leiter classic from 1960. It is worth remembering that in 1960, colour photography was not that common among photographers and seen as a bit of a gimmick among “real” photographers. Saul Leiter, with his colour work that he did in his personal time, played a major role in bringing colour photography to the mainstream.

This particular photograph, of a man standing on snow shot through a glass, has become synonymous with Saul Leiter’s colour work. It’s worth paying notice to the condensation on the glass that has been wiped off to allow just the top half of the person to be clearly focused. Going through Saul Leiter’s work, there are a couple of classic images that were taken at the same place and perhaps even at the same time as this one.

As far as moments go, the subject seems to be looking down on his left palm. If this was the current time, you wouldn’t go amiss to assume that he’s looking down on his cell phone. But this is was shot in 1960 – way before cell phones. The moment in time itself – a pause during a cold wintery day in New York.

Like a lot of Saul Leiter’s images, this one too has strong elements of abstraction (e.g. focus on shapes rather than details) and it’s not immediately clear what story – if any – is being told. And also like many of Saul Leiter’s images, the splash of colour, in this case, yellow of the background lorry plays a strong part.

Abstractive qualities of Letter’s work do not lend themselves well to dissection. An American writer, E.B. White once quipped that –

Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

I think same can be said of this image and lot of abstract work by other artists too.

This post is a from the series that I call, This Week’s Photo – a mostly weekly series where I share and write about famous photographs. You can follow the full series here.

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