28 November 2013

Saul Leiter, 1923 - 2013

There is a man who sells melons at the market just in front of the Palais de Justice in Aix-en-Provence. He has been there for 40 years at least, and I remember him from so many years ago alongside his mother who has since passed on. He had hair then and was slim, (ditto for me). Now he is round, and alone, but still presides over large tables filled with melons during the summer months. He sang out a musical phrase which was belted out in his youth, and, which he still does because I heard it in August. 

...'Toute les bonnes choses ont fin… les melons de Cavaillon!...venez vite, toute les bonne choses ont fin...les bons melons de Cavaillion...venez vite'

(All good things must end, the melons of Cavaillion, come quick, all good things must end, the melons of Cavaillion...come quick)

It was sung out in a thick provençial accent over the noisy din of the crowded market place, just one of many voices, but a beautiful one which has stayed in my imagination for all these years. 

And today, I find out that Saul Leiter has died in New York. He was not just another  great photographer in the vein of Henri-Cartier Bresson but an original himself. I love  the painterly feel of 'messiness' in his images, and of course he painted as well. He was an unpretentious 'nuts-and-bolts' kind of craftsman (like Bresson) whose poetic images are simple, and fused with subtle color harmonies. He just went out with his camera everyday and shot what pleased him, no bullshit. But he wasn't just a craftsman, but an artist with a camera, and his wonderful eye. 

(check this link for an interesting interview  with Tomas Leach, the Director of the film In No Great Hurry which was made recently)


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