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The #saulleiterassignment on Instagram. Let’s play

This Ain’t Art School, the photography project for the community on Instagram, wants you to play #saulleiterassignment. 

Saul Leiter is often called a pioneer of color photography. He shot color in the 1950s and early 1960s but was discovered – or more precisely rediscovered – only in the last two decades. Saul Leiter could never be bothered to open or accept invitations to exhibitions, not even when Edward Steichen wanted him to be part of the “Family of Man”.

The history of photography had to be rewritten when people began to take notice of his œuvre, of his lyrical street scenes that sometimes are closer to painting and Abstract Expressionism than to photography. “Sometimes I think I love painting more than I do photography. But I love photography”, Leiter once said.

He is one of the landmark figures in the history of New York photography often called the New York School of Photography. It’s not an actual school where people met to learn about photography but a loosely defined group of photographers sharing influences, subjects and stylistic earmarks like Jane Livingston has noted in her book “The New York School. Photographs 1936–1963”. Among them Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt and many more.

On Youtube there is a conversation between Saul Leiter and Vince Aletti. Leiter talks about the career he sort of never had, about his life in poverty and about his photography. It’s interesting, sweet, funny and sad, all at the same time.

On Instagram, This Ain’t Art School are hosting the #saulleiterassignment. This is what they’d like you to do this month:

Please post your (all new!) photos between October 9 and 30 and use the hashtag #saulleiterassignment. We only have one task for you this time around because we’d love this assignment to be about what made Saul Leiter’s photography stand out.
Here’s your assignment:

VISUAL POETRY: Please capture the passing illusion of everyday life. Use mirrors, windows and other reflective surfaces to tease the eyes. Don’t be afraid of condensation, rain, fog and snow. Try to hold out of reach what we most want to see by including neon signs, umbrellas, doors, shadows, silhouettes, blur, buses, cars etc. Conjure mystery. Try to echo the abstraction of painting. Play with darkness, light and color. And, most importantly: Please try to avoid Instagram clichés such as the typical #puddlegram.

Saul Leiter once said: »People are more important than cheese cake.« And: »The real world has more to do with what is hidden.« Keep that in mind when taking photos!
This time around we have a guest judge on board again: Welcome, @reppink! She’ll help us find the three winners. 

If you need more inspiration, you could watch another lecture by Saul Leiter. During the conversation in Amsterdam he said: “It somehow pleases the public to think of artists as weirdos. I don’t know why that is.” (Please find parts 2-4 on Youtube.)

For further reading: 

Made in Manhattan: How Saul Leiter found beauty in Gotham’s glass and grime, The Guardian
Saul Leiter, Photographer Who Captured New York’s Palette, Dies at 89, The New York Times

Cover image: “Taxi”, ca. 1957. Saul Leiter, courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

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