On Inspiration – Saul Leiter

Each month, I try to purchase a photography book, mostly on street photography. I think it is also part of the learning of a photographer to look at others work. Obviously, some images attract me more than others, some I will forget straight away and some are recorded forever. It is therefore not unusual for me to have an image pop up in my mind as I am in the street taking pictures. I guess this can be called inspiration or even sometimes ‘déjà vu’. One of my favourite street photographers is Saul Leiter. He mastered both color and B&W mediums and knew how to depict atmospheres in a given place. His pictures give the impression that time stopped for a second and will never resume. He probably was a shy photographer as he very rarely shot people facing them, preferring reflections or hints of their presence. His reds were special, muted and strong at the same time. I can say that he has been an inspiration to my photography.

The picture below was shot in the Menilmontant neighbourhood. I had spotted the colors of this store front and was waiting for something to happen. This is when I noticed this man walking towards me and, all of a sudden, one of Saul Leiter’s most famous picture came to my mind (It is actually the cover of his most recent book which I highly recommend). As the man got closer, I hit the trigger automatically, inspired by the memory of Saul’s shot.  It wasn’t an attempt to mimick him, Saul Leiter’s shot is so perfect, but  just another interpretation of a similar moment, in different times and in a different place.


Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F2.8, 1/4000, ISO200

4 Responses to “On Inspiration – Saul Leiter”

  1. Konstantin dit :

    Hi Yanidel – I can absolutely see the inspiration for this photograph of yours! While reading your story, I thought about street photography and the connection between the story and the picture. If I had seen this picture without the story, I would have probably thought something of it but not much – it would have been a curiosity. Now that I know the story, I see the inspiration, and how you took it – I feel much closer to it than before. I have noticed that about some of my older street photos – I have always needed to tell the story in order to increase the impact – sure some of the photos are nice on their own but the story is what really makes them grow. For me this has been a debate because some street photographers say that the picture is the story in itself. I have hard time seeing it this simple and was wondering what you think. How do you see this relationship?

  2. Lucy dit :

    I like the link you made with the photo, it’s interesting to see how that photo lead to yours and so we are given a small snapshot of you too.
    I love photography!

  3. simon dit :

    I’m glad you’re not one of the guys, who sit in the Louvre all day long to draw their own copy Monalisa’s smile.