Saul Leiter Is Not At Home

One of the most affecting films I have seen documenting the life and times of a photographer has to be Thomas Leach’s In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life with Saul Leiter released in 2012. In the year of its release I commissioned an interview with Thomas (the link to this interview is at the end of this article). In the film Leiter is seen addressing his vast archive with a sense of despair aided by his assistant Margit Erb who brings a sense of structure and positivity to his melancholic nostalgia. Now a book has been published by Thames & Hudson of the work they were curating titled The Unseen Leiter: With 76 Slides.

Whilst on social media I saw that the photographer Richard Bram had posted a few images he had taken in Leiter’s Manhattan apartment after Leiter’s death and so I contacted him about the work. These are the images Bram made and a brief description of how he managed to gain entry to the apartment.

The photographs were made on the afternoon of 15 August, 2016. The tour was arranged by Jaime Permuth, photographer and member of the faculty of the New York School of Visual Arts and the New York Film Academy, for one of his classes and as a friend he invited me along. Margit Erb, Leiter’s assistant of many years and now director of the Saul Leiter foundation, let the five of us in. She talked at length about Leiter and how he lived and worked, then opened  a laptop and showed us the data-base program she had built and was still working on to catalogue the thousands and thousands of images there.

Margit spoke about the ‘bits and bobs’ scattered about the place and clustered on the mantelpiece: how he collected them and what they meant to him. His scarves and hats were still draped over a chair as if he’d just stepped out for something on that hot August afternoon. It was a rare privilege to be there amongst the mad, crowded, dust-covered piles of boxes of his photographica at a moment when his home/studio/darkroom had hardly been changed in the two and a half years since his death.

You can read our interview with Thomas Leach here:

You can see more of Richard Bram’s work here:

You can hear Richard Bram on the A Photographic Life podcast here:

All images © Richard Bram 2022

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018 He is the presenter of the A Photographic Life and In Search of Bill Jay podcasts.

© Grant Scott 2022

1 comment

  1. I’ve always wondered about any and all photographer’s living and working spaces as “museum pieces” and, in a way, to put some kind of stamp (or foot down?) to say: “he or she lived here; they made great work.” Something that goes beyond the photograph. And perhaps, that’s not always possible, and this is the emphasis once again on the temporary and short-term nature of life.

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