Posts Tagged ‘Saul Leiter

28
Nov
13

Vale Saul Leiter: the world will be less colour-full, less abstract, less sensual without him

November 2013

 

Saul Leiter. 'Foot on El' 1954

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Foot on El
1954

 

 

“Seeing is a neglected enterprise,” Mr. Leiter often said.

“I am not immersed in self-admiration,” he said. “When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at 3 in the morning and realise that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use.”

“He broke all the rules when it came to composing a photograph,” said Mr. Leiter’s assistant, Margit Erb, who confirmed his death, at his home. “He put things into the abstract, he paid attention to colour, he threw foregrounds out of focus, which made the photographs feel very voyeuristic. He applied a painterly mentality that the photography world had not seen.”

.
His art was enough.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
1956

 

 

“”In order to build a career and to be successful, one has to be determined,” Mr. Leiter said in an interview for a monograph published in Germany in 2008. “One has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it.” …

Unplanned and unstaged, Mr. Leiter’s photographs are slices fleetingly glimpsed by a walker in the city. People are often in soft focus, shown only in part or absent altogether, though their presence is keenly implied. Sensitive to the city’s found geometry, he shot by design around the edges of things: vistas are often seen through rain, snow or misted windows.

“A window covered with raindrops interests me more than a photograph of a famous person,” Mr. Leiter says in [the film] “In No Great Hurry.””

Read the obituary of this wonderful artist at “Saul Leiter, Photographer Who Captured New York’s Palette, Dies at 89” on the New York Times website, November 27, 2013

 

 

More images

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna, January – May 2013
Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter Retrospective’ at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen Hamburg, February – April 2012
Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter: New York Reflections’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, October 2011 – March 2012

 

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26
Sep
13

Exhibition: ‘Un/Natural Color’ at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA

Exhibition dates: 7th July – 29th September 2013

 

Many thankx to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Un/Natural Color' at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

 

Installation photographs of the exhibition Un/Natural Color at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art

 

 

This exhibition looks at the powerful relationship between colour and memory by considering photographs and the ways in which their unique colour palettes evoke specific moments of the historical past. From the pastel hues of 19th-century hand-painted portraits, to the vibrant colours of late-1930s Kodachrome transparencies, and the faded, shifted tones of snapshots from the 1970s, different kinds of colour reproduction are closely associated with the time periods that they most frequently represent. Each experiment in colour photography was originally meant to convey a sense of the natural hues of the world, but as our expectations for realistic representation have evolved, these earlier technologies for representing colour have also taken on new meaning. Today, the distinctive colours found in many vintage photographs speak as loudly to contemporary viewers about the period in which they were made as the content that they render visible. The exhibition suggests that the aesthetics of colour are closely related to the evolution of photographic technology over the past 100 years, and encourages visitors to rethink the significance of colour in contemporary photography through the lens of its multi-coloured past. This exhibition was organised by Kim Beil, an art historian who teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Text from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art website

 

Jack Delano. 'Barker at the Grounds of the Vermont State Fair, Rutland' 1941, printed 1983

 

Jack Delano (American, 1914-1997)
Barker at the Grounds of the Vermont State Fair, Rutland
1941, printed 1983
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the Bruce Berman and Nancy Goliger Berman Collection

 

Jack Delano. 'At the Vermont State Fair, Rutland' 1941, printed 1985

 

Jack Delano (American, 1914-1997)
At the Vermont State Fair, Rutland
1941, printed 1985
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of the Bruce Berman and Nancy Goliger Berman Collection

 

William Eggleston. 'Farm truck, Memphis, Tennessee' 1972

 

William Eggleston (American, b. 1939)
Farm truck, Memphis, Tennessee
1972
Dye-transfer print

 

Leroy Grannis (American, 1917-2011) 'Greg Noll Surf Team at Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, Sunset Beach' 1966, printed 2005

 

Leroy Grannis (American, 1917-2011)
Greg Noll Surf Team at Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, Sunset Beach
1966, printed 2005
C-print, ed. 1/9
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum purchase with funds provided by Janet and Michael G. Wilson

 

 

Un/Natural Color, an exhibition of colour photography from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s (SBMA) permanent collection, illustrates the history of colour photography since the 19th century and examines how the shifted or faded colours of old photographs can evoke moments in the historical past. Responding to the widespread use of nostalgic filters in popular photography and social media apps, such as Instagram and Twitter, this presentation enables visitors to see first-hand the historical processes that inspired the aesthetics of these digital manipulations. Despite their reputation for preserving memories and stopping time, photographs themselves are susceptible to material changes over time. These changes are often most visible in the radical colour shifts seen in old photographs, from the characteristic pink hue of snapshots from the 1950s to the yellowed borders and cool cast of prints from the 1970s. These changes also serve to complicate any simple belief in the ability of photography to faithfully represent the natural colours of the world.

While the exhibition includes a number of experimental early processes, including the chromolithographically-derived Photochrom process as well as an early Autochrome, the bulk of the imagery is drawn from the decades following the pivotal invention of Kodachrome, the first colour slide film, which was made commercially available in 1936. Because this film, as well as Kodacolor negative film (1942), was sent back to Eastman-Kodak for processing, photographers’ control over their imagery was greatly reduced, leading many art photographers to resist the transition to colour until decades later.

Un/Natural Color includes rarely-seen colour work by two notable documentary photographers of the Depression era, Jack Delano and Marion Post Wolcott. Both worked for the Farm Security Administration (a government program associated with the New Deal) and made limited use of colour film while on assignment documenting the effects of the Great Depression on rural American. Very few (if any) of these images were reproduced in the popular press, however, owing to the difficulty and cost of reproducing colour photographs, and to colour photography’s overwhelming association with commercial advertising at this time (as in Elmar Ludwig and Edmund Nägele’s image of the popular resort chain, Butlin’s).

The art establishment at large expressed little interest in colour photography until the mid-1970s, following the inclusion of colour work in two groundbreaking exhibitions: Stephen Shore’s vernacular landscapes in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape at the George Eastman House in Rochester, NY (1975) and the solo exhibition of William Eggleston’s colour photography at the Museum of Modern Art, NY (1976). Both of these important photographers are represented in Un/Natural Color, as well as work by photographers exploring similar uses of colour to record everyday American scenes, including Jeff Brouws, Jim Dow, and Joel Meyerowitz.

Prior to the 1970s, some tentative forays into colour photography were made by art photographers primarily known for their work in black-and-white (notably Harry Callahan), but colour was more often derided for its populist associations and was typically allied with either snapshot photography or advertising and Hollywood. The negative connotation that colour photography had acquired over the years in the art world was critical to its adoption by photographers like Shore and Eggleston, who used it to challenge conventional expectations for photographic art and to force viewers to look with new eyes at the familiar world around them.

An image such as Greg Noll Surf Team at Duke Kahanamoku Invitational, Sunset Beach by Leroy Grannis highlights the powerful ability of colour photography to summon a unique historical moment. It is not just the classic haircut and short surf trunks sported by the surf legend, Greg Noll, that situates this photograph in the 1960s. Colour photography at this time typically recorded colour in a highly saturated, though fairly uniform manner, leaving some aspects of this photograph looking flat, rather than mimicking the subtle modulation of tone that is more commonly associated with the perception of depth by human vision.

The characteristic manner by which different colour processes represent the colours of the world, as well as the changes that such colour photographs suffer over time, are powerful indicators of the photograph’s history. When we look at colour photographs, all of these markers are brought to bear on our interpretation of their subjects, leading us to question: what is natural colour anyway?

Press release from the Santa Barbara Museum of Art website

 

Roman Freulich. 'Gloria Swanson' Nd

 

Roman Freulich (American, born Poland 1898-1974)
Gloria Swanson
Nd
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Judith Caditz, Allan M. Caditz, Ellen Joan Abramson and Norman Abramson

 

William Edwin Gledhill (Canadian, 1888-1976) 'Amanda Duff' 1935

 

William Edwin Gledhill (Canadian, 1888-1976)
Amanda Duff
1935
Dye transfer print
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Gift of Keith Gledhill

 

Elmar Ludwig and Edmond Nagele. 'The Indoor-Heated Pool, Butlin’s Mosney' Nd

 

Elmar Ludwig (German, b. 1935) and Edmund Nägele (German, b. 1942)
The Indoor-Heated Pool, Butlin’s Mosney
Nd

 

William Henry Jackson. 'Colorado Railway Mountain View' 1898

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Colorado Railway Mountain View
1898
Photochrom
Santa Barbra Museum of Art, Museum purchase

 

2010.6.3-Jackson-WEB

 

William Henry Jackson (American, 1843-1942)
Colorado Grand Canyon of the Arkansas
1898
Photochrom
Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Museum purchase

 

Saul Leiter. 'Snow' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Snow
1960

 

 

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
1130 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA

Opening hours:
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Thursday Evenings 5 – 8pm

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18
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 31st January – 26th May 2013

 

Saul Leiter. 'From the El' c. 1955

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
From the El
c. 1955
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I like it when one is not certain of what one sees.
We don’t know why the photographer has taken such a picture.
If we look and look, we begin to see and are still left with the pleasure of uncertainty.”

.
“It is not where it is or what it is that matters, but how you see it.”

.
“After the age of 75 you should not be photographed.
You should be painted by Rembrandt or Hals, but not by Caravaggio.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

How brave was the photographer, occluding most of the colour image in darkness, something that had never been done before and has rarely been seen since. Look at the last three photographs in this posting to understand what I mean.

Considering that Saul Leiter’s colour photography predates William Eggleston and Stephen Shore by a couple of decades, it can truly be said that he is one of the early masters of colour photography. As the curator Ingo Taubhorn comments, The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography.”

Well said.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Kunst Haus Wein for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Saul Leiter. 'Nude' 1970s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Nude
1970s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN is devoting a major retrospective to the oeuvre of the 89-year-old photographer and painter Saul Leiter. The exhibition, which was developed in cooperation with House of Photography / Deichtorhallen Hamburg, presents the wide range of this versatile artist’s works, including early black-and-white and colour photographs, fashion images, painted photographs of nudes, paintings and a number of his sketchbooks. One section of the exhibition is devoted to Saul Leiter’s most recent photographs, which he continues to take on the streets of New York’s East Village.

It is only in the last few years that Saul Leiter has received due recognition for his role as one of the pioneers of colour photography. As early as 1946, and thus well before the representatives of the so-called “new colour” photography in the 1970s, such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore, he was one of the first to use colour photography for artistic shots, despite its being frowned upon by other artists of the day. “The older aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white photography and the historical dating of the first artistic use of colour photography to the early 1970s need to be critically reviewed. Saul Leiter’s oeuvre essentially rewrites the history of photography,” comments curator Ingo Taubhorn.

Saul Leiter has always considered himself both a painter and a photographer. In his painting and in his photographs he clearly tends towards abstraction and two-dimensionality. One often finds large deep-black areas, produced by shadows, taking up as much as three quarters of his photographs. Passers-by are not presented as individuals, but as blurred clouds of colour, filtered through misty panes of glass or wedged in between walls of buildings and traffic signs. The boundaries between the abstract and the representational in his paintings and photographs are virtually fluid. Saul Leiter’s street photography – a genre in which his work is matchless – is, in essence, painting metamorphosed into photography.

In Leiter’s works, the genres of street photography, portraiture, still life, fashion photography and architectural photography coalesce. He finds his motifs, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and – time and again – umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The indeterminateness of detail, the blurring of movement and reduced depth of field, the use of shadows or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light, as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows or as reflections, all combine to create the muted colour vocabulary of a semi-real, semiabstract urban space. These are the works of an as yet almost undiscovered modern master of colour photography.

 

About Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter discovered his passion for art at an early age and started painting as a teenager at the end of the 1940s. His family did not support him in his artistic endeavours; his father, a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar, had always hoped his son Saul would one day follow him in the family tradition and become a rabbi. Leiter was self-taught, but by no means uneducated. He read and learned a great deal about art, so that his knowledge and understanding constantly grew. In this way, he made sure that his own ideas and artistic works were duly related to the historical context.

In 1946, shortly after he had moved to New York, Leiter became acquainted with Richard Poussette-Dart, who introduced him to photography, a medium that appealed to Leiter very much and that he quickly made his own. Leiter soon resolved to use photography not only as a means of making art but as a way of earning a living. He started taking fashion photographs, and thanks to his good eye, his playful sense of humour, and his pronounced sense of elegance, swiftly emerged as an extraordinary fashion photographer. In the 1950s, Life magazine published photo spreads of Saul Leiter’s first black-and-white series. He took part in exhibitions, for example “Always the Young Strangers” (1953) curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art. From 1958 to 1967, Leiter worked for Harper’s Bazaar. Altogether he spent some 20 years photographing for various classic magazines as well as more recent ones: after Esquire and Harper’s he also worked for Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen and Nova.

 

Saul Leiter. 'New York' 1950s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
New York
1950s
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Sign Painter' 1954

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Sign Painter
1954
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Graffiti Heads' 1950

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Graffiti Heads
1950
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shirt' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shirt
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Harlem' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Hat' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Hat
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Street Scene' 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Street Scene
1957
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

The exhibition chapters

Abstract Painting

Although his photographic oeuvre has dominated his image as an artist, Saul Leiter sees himself first and foremost as a painter. He began his artistic career as a painter, and while working as a photographer he never stopped painting and drawing. Leiter’s passion for art began when he was just a child, even though his ambitions received no support from his family. As a teenager he spent many hours in libraries studying art books. He found inspiration in the paintings of such artists as Vermeer, Bonnard, Vuillard and Picasso, as well as in Japanese graphic art. Leiter, who was self-taught, painted his first pictures in 1940. Most of them were lyrical, abstract compositions that reflected his admiration for the new American avant-garde. His ardent feeling for colour is recognisable even in these early paintings, as is his lifelong predilection for painting small format pastels and watercolours on paper.

After moving to New York in 1946, he sometimes presented his works together with abstract expressionist painters such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. His studio was located on 10th Street in the East Village, which at that time was a neighbourhood very popular with avant-garde artists. Leiter shared these artists’ interest in abstraction and the use of colour, gesture and the element of chance, but he chose a radically different format for his works. Whereas many of his contemporaries, such as Jasper Johns or Franz Kline, painted wall-sized paintings that physically filled the beholder’s entire field of vision, Leiter worked in an intimate, small format. His works were also exhibited at the Tanager Gallery, one of the most important artist-run cooperatives in the East Village at that time. After switching the main focus of his work to photography in the late 1940s, however, Leiter stopped exhibiting his paintings.

 

Figurative Painting

Saul Leiter’s abstract painting frequently unites qualities of intimacy and familiarity with a sense of space reminiscent of an open landscape. Occasionally he also makes figurative sketches. Often these give mere intimations of a face or a body, perhaps a pointed nose, eyes and a mouth. Some of his male figures wear hats, similar to those worn by the religious Jews that peopled Leiter’s world in his youth. Most of these works focus on a single figure; only occasionally do we see a couple, or several figures grouped together. The quality of the line and the subtle suggestion of figures or heads in these paintings are reminiscent of paintings by Édouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard, in which facial features are hinted at through lines and fine shadings of colour rather than being defined by careful modelling.

 

Street Photography

When, in 1947, Saul Leiter attended an exhibition of works by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, he became convinced of the creative potential of this medium. He bought himself a 35mm Leica camera at a bargain and began, without any previous training, to take photographs on the streets of New York. At first he used only black-and-white film, but in 1948 he also started using colour film. His black-and-white photographs exhibit some elements of documentary photography but are nevertheless far removed from a photojournalistic style. Rather, they are subjective observations, often concentrating on a single individual in the big city. Leiter’s complex, multilayered works evoke feelings of alienation, melancholy and tension. Leiter underscores this impression by experimenting with strong contrasts, light and shadow, and asymmetrical compositions containing large areas in which the images are blurred.

Thematically and stylistically, there are great similarities between Leiter’s works and the works of other representatives of New York street photography of the same era, for example Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein, Louis Faurer and later Robert Frank and William Klein, today generally known as the New York School. Their radical new, subjective photography had a psychological component that revealed an unusual sensitivity to social turbulences and the uncertainty felt by many Americans during the years following the Second World War.

 

Colour Photography

Until well into the 1970s, colour photography was used almost exclusively for advertising and fashion magazines. Many photographers considered the vivid colours unsuitable for artistic expression. Moreover, they were unable to develop their colour film themselves, which made it a very expensive undertaking. It was not until 1976 that the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave its first exhibition devoted to colour photography, when it presented “Photographs by William Eggleston”.

Saul Leiter was one of the few photographers who did not reject colour photography. As a painter, he took a particular interest in street photography as a genre in which to experiment with colour film. As early as 1948, at the beginning of his career, he bought his first roles of 35mm Kodachrome colour slide film, which had been on the market since 1936. In order to save money, he often used film that had passed its sell-by date. Leiter particularly liked the resulting pictures with their delicate, muted colours.

The innumerable early colour photographs that Leiter took between 1948 and 1960 are of a unique painterly and narrative quality. They stand in contrast to the works of other photographers, in which colour is often the defining element of the composition. This circumstance, coupled with Leiter’s tendency towards abstraction, links Leiter’s photography with his painting. But in contrast to his painting (and his black-and-white photographs), his colour photographs are highly structured. It is the incomparable beauty of these works that has brought Leiter recognition as one of the masters of 20th-century photography.

 

Fashion Photography

In the late 1950s, Saul Leiter worked successfully in the fields of fashion photography and advertising. From the very first, his style was unmistakeable. His images were multilayered and complex, characterised by soft, impressionistic qualities and cubist changes of perspective. He was given his first commercial assignment in 1958 by Henry Wolf, at that time the new Art Director of Harper’s Bazaar, with whom Leiter became friends. Harper’s Bazaar was one of the leading American fashion magazines, presenting trail-blazing fashion series by photographers such as Richard Avedon or Lillian Bassman.

Subsequently, Leiter was given more and more prestigious assignments, and over the years began to spend almost all his time doing commercial work. Apart from Harper’s Bazaar, his fashion and advertising photos appeared in Elle and Show, in British Vogue and Queen and also in Nova. The amazing thing is that during this period, Leiter managed to retain his own narrative, stylised aesthetic, whereas other fashion photographers favoured a rather brittle, graphic style. In the 1970s, partly due to his own dwindling interest in commercial photography, Leiter received fewer and fewer assignments. In 1981 he gave up his studio on Fifth Avenue and in the following years led a quiet life far from the public eye.

 

Saul Leiter. 'Carol Brown, 'Harper's Bazaar'' c. 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Carol Brown, ‘Harper’s Bazaar’
c. 1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Soames Bantry, 'Nova'' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Soames Bantry, ‘Nova’
1960
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Walking' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Walking
1956
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Reflection' 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learnt to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

Art critic Roberta Smith wrote in 2005: “Mr. Leiter was a photographer less of people than of perception itself. His painter’s instincts served him well in his emphasis on surface, spatial ambiguity and a lush, carefully calibrated palette. But the abstract allure of his work doesn’t rely on soft focus, a persistent, often irritating photographic ploy, or the stark isolation of details, in the manner of Aaron Siskind or early Harry Callahan. Instead, Mr. Leiter captured the passing illusions of everyday life with a precision that might almost seem scientific, if it weren’t so poetically resonant and visually layered.”

Text from the Lens Culture website [Online] Cited 15/05/2013 no longer available online

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shopping' c. 1953

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shopping
c. 1953
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Kutztown' 1948

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Kutztown
1948
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Pizza, Patterson' 1952

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Pizza, Patterson
1952
© Saul Leiter / Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

KUNST HAUS WIEN
Museum Hundertwasser
Untere Weißgerberstraße 13
1030 Vienna
Phone: +43-1-712 04 91

Opening hours:
Daily, 10am – 7pm

Kunst Haus Wein website

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23
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour’ at Somerset House, London

Exhibition dates: 8th November 2012 – 27th January 2013

Curator: William E. Ewing

 

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Harlem, New York' 1947

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Harlem, New York, 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print / printed 1970s
Image: 29.1 x 19.6 cm / Paper: 30.4 x 25.4cm
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

 

They may be channelling the master, but none does it like Cartier-Bresson. There is a spareness and spatial intensity to Cartier-Bresson’s work that is absolutely his own. Look at the photograph directly above (Harlem, New York, 1947). A railing leads the eye in bottom right, echoed by the bottom jamb of the window. The opening is set for the old man to perform complete with curtains, talking stage right. The jamb zig zags above a trilby-wearing, cigarette-smoking man’s head leading to a wire mesh fence that takes the eye out of the frame on the left. The two men, lower than the old man in the framed window, look in a completely different direction to him. Counterpoise. The image pulls in two directions. Above their head a series of cantilevered staircases ascends to the heavens, thought ascending. A masterpiece.

So many of the other photographers in this posting crowd the plane with people looking in all directions, closed off foregrounds or tensionless images. Images that are too complex or too simple. There is an opposition to Cartier-Bresson’s images that is difficult for the viewer to resolve neatly, yet they appear as if in perfect balance. Look at Brooklyn, New York, 1947 towards the bottom of the posting. Nothing in this still life is out of place (from the light to the multiple, overlapping shadows and the out of focus elements of the composition) yet there is humbling agony about the whole thing. It is almost is if he is saying, “cop a load of this, this is what I can see.” And what a fabulous eye it is.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Somerset House for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Alex Webb. 'Tehuantepec, Mexico' 1985

 

Alex Webb (American, b. 1952)
Tehuantepec, Mexico
1985
71 x 47cm
Digital Type C print
© Alex Webb

 

Andy Freeberg. 'Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami' 2010

 

Andy Freeberg 
Sean Kelly, Art Basel Miami
2010
Artist: Kehinde Wiley
63 x 43 cm
Pigment ink print
© Andy Freeberg
Courtesy Kopeikin Gallery

 

Carolyn Drake. 'New Kashgar. Kashgar, China'  2011

 

Carolyn Drake (American, b. 1971)
New Kashgar. Kashgar, China  
2011
30.48 x 20.32cm
Digital Light Jet print
© Carolyn Drake 2012

 

Ernst Haas. 'New Orleans, USA' 1960

 

Ernst Haas (Austrian-American, 1921-1986)
New Orleans, USA,
1960
Chromogenic archival print
50 x 35cm
© Ernst Haas Estate, New York

 

Helen Levitt. 'Cat next to red car, New York' 1973

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
Cat next to red car, New York,
1973
Type C prints
18 x 12 inches
© Estate of Helen Levitt

 

Jeff Mermelstein. 'Untitled (Package Pile Up, New York City)' 1995

 

Jeff Mermelstein (American, b. 1957)
Untitled (Package Pile Up, New York City)
1995
Chromogenic print
© Jeff Mermelstein
Courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art, New York

 

 

Positive View Foundation announces its inaugural exhibition Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour, to be held at Somerset House, 8 November 2012 – 27 January 2013. Curated by William A. Ewing, the exhibition will feature 10 Henri Cartier-Bresson photographs never before exhibited in the UK alongside over 75 works by 15 international contemporary photographers, including: Karl Baden (US), Carolyn Drake (US), Melanie Einzig (US), Andy Freeberg (US), Harry Gruyaert (Belgium), Ernst Haas (Austrian), Fred Herzog (Canadian), Saul Leiter (US), Helen Levitt (US), Jeff Mermelstein (US), Joel Meyerowitz (US), Trent Parke (Australian), Boris Savelev (Ukranian), Robert Walker (Canadian), and Alex Webb (US).

The extensive showcase will illustrate how photographers working in Europe and North America adopted and adapted the master’s ethos famously known as  ‘the decisive moment’ to their work in colour. Though they often departed from the concept in significant ways, something of that challenge remained: how to seize something that happens and capture it in the very moment that it takes place.

It is well-known that Cartier-Bresson was disparaging towards colour photography, which in the 1950s was in its early years of development, and his reasoning was based both on the technical and aesthetic limitations of the medium at the time. Curator William E. Ewing has conceived the exhibition in terms of, as he puts it, ‘challenge and response’. “This exhibition will show how Henri Cartier-Bresson, in spite of his skeptical attitude regarding the artistic value of colour photography, nevertheless exerted a powerful influence over photographers who took up the new medium and who were determined to put a personal stamp on it. In effect, his criticisms of colour spurred on a new generation, determined to overcome the obstacles and prove him wrong. A Question of Colour simultaneously pays homage to a master who felt that black and white photography was the ideal medium, and could not be bettered, and to a group of photographers of the 20th and 21st centuries who chose the path of colour and made, and continue to make, great strides.”

Cartier-Bresson: A Question of Colour will feature a selection of photographers whose commitment to expression in colour was – or is – wholehearted and highly sophisticated, and which measured up to Cartier-Bresson’s essential requirement that content and form were in perfect balance. Some of these artists were Cartier-Bresson’s contemporaries, like Helen Levitt, or even, as with Ernst Haas, his friends; others, such as Fred Herzog in Vancouver, knew the artist’s seminal work across vast distances; others were junior colleagues, such as Harry Gruyaert, who found himself debating colour ferociously with the master; and others still, like Andy Freeberg or Carolyn Drake, never knew the man first-hand, but were deeply influenced by his example.

Press release from Somerset House website

 

Jeff Mermelstein. 'Unitled ($10 bill in mouth) New York City' 1992

 

Jeff Mermelstein (American, b. 1957)
Unitled ($10 bill in mouth) New York City, 1992
1992
Chromogenic print
20 x 16 in.
© Jeff Mermelstein
Courtesy Rick Wester Fine Art, New York

 

Joel Meyerowitz. 'Madison Avenue, New York City 1975

 

Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1938)
Madison Avenue, New York City
1975
Archival Pigment Print
© Joel Meyerowitz 2012
Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC

 

Karl Baden. 'Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts' 2009

 

Karl Baden (American, b. 1952)
Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts
2009
Archival Inkjet
40.64 x 54.19cm
© Karl Baden

 

Trent Parke. 'Man Vomiting, Gerald #1' 2006

 

Trent Parke (Australian, b. 1971)
Man Vomiting, Gerald #1
2006
Type C print
© Trent Parke
Courtesy Magnum Photos

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson. 'Brooklyn, New York' 1947

 

Henri Cartier-Bresson (French, 1908-2004)
Brooklyn, New York, 1947
1947
Gelatin silver print / printed in 2007
Image: 19.8 x 29.8 cm / Paper: 22.9 x 30.4 cm
© Henri Cartier-Bresson/Magnum Photos, Courtesy Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Melanie Einzig. 'September 11th, New York' 2001

 

Melanie Einzig (American, b. 1967)
September 11th, New York 2001
2001
21 x 33cm
Inkjet print
© Melanie Einzig 2012

 

 

Terrace Rooms & Courtyard Rooms, Somerset House
Strand, London, WC2R 1LA

Opening hours:
10am – 6pm daily

Somerset House website

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06
Apr
12

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter Retrospective’ at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 3rd February – 15th April 2012

 

Saul Leiter. 'Joanna' c. 1947

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Joanna
c. 1947
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I always assumed that I would simply be forgotten and disappear from view.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

 

The second of two postings on the colour photography of Saul Leiter. The first posting was for the exhibition Saul Leiter: New York Reflections at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, October 2011 – March 2012. This exhibition is the first major retrospective of his work. At last this artist seems to be getting the recognition he deserves!

The prosaic nature of the titles of the photographs belies their complexity. They remind me of the refractions of Lee Friedlander, the colour fields of Mark Rothko, the emotional intensity of Abstract Expressionism and the impression of spontaneous, subconscious creation that is Surrealism. His photographs are the glorious spirit of the city writ large – unique, atmospheric and with great psychological use of colour and space. I can’t think of any other colour photographer of the era (or for that matter, any era) that occludes the picture plane as much as Leiter does, and to such psychological affect, as in the last two photographs in this posting. The viewer becomes like a Peeping Tom, a voyeur of the world. Leiter deserves to be one of the modern masters of colour photography. I am so glad that he hasn’t disappeared from view. The world would be a poorer place without his visualisation.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Saul Leiter. 'Untitled (Self-portrait)' 1950s

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Untitled (Self-portrait)
1950s
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Phone Call' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Phone Call
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Postmen' 1952

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Postmen
1952
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Walking' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Walking
1956
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Shopping' c. 1953

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Shopping
c. 1953
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“Leiter is a rare artist, one whose vision is so encompassing, so refined, so in touch with a certain lyrical undertone, that his best photographs occasionally seem literally to transcend the medium.”

.
Jane Livingston

 

 

House of Photography at Deichtorhallen will from February 3 to April 15, 2012 be highlighting the oeuvre of 88-year-old photographer and painter Saul Leiter in the world’s first major retrospective. The exhibition covers more than 400 works and brings together in marvellous combination his early black-and-white and colour photographs, fashion images, painted-over nude photographs, paintings and his sketchbooks, which have never gone on public view before. Then final chapter in the exhibition is dedicated to Saul Leiter’s most recent photographic works, which he continues to take on the streets in his neighbourhood in New York’s East Village.

 Saul Leiter was born in 1923 in Pittsburgh and it was not until a few years ago that his work received due recognition for its pioneering role in the emergence of colour photography. As early as 1946, and thus well before the representatives of New Color Photography in the 1970s (such as William Eggleston and Stephen Shore) he was one of the first to use colour photography, despite it being despised by artists of the day, for his free artistic shots.

“The older photo-aesthetic views on the hegemony of black-and-white and the dating in photo history of the artistic use of color photography to the early 1970s need to be critically revisited. With Saul Leiter’s oeuvre, the history of photography essentially has to be rewritten,” comments curator Ingo Taubhorn. 

Saul Leiter has always seen himself as both painter and photograph. In his painting and in his photographs he tends clearly to abstraction and a surface feel. Often there are large, deep black surfaces caused by shadows that take up as much as three quarters of the photographs. These are images that do not present passers-by as individuals, but as blurred colour impulses, behind panes of glass or wedges between house walls and traffic signs. He espouses a fluid transition between the abstract and the figurative in his paintings and photographs. Saul Leiter’s street photography, and in this genre his work is quite without precedent, is actually painting that has become photography, as Rolf Nobel writes in the book accompanying the exhibition.

 

On Saul Leiter

Saul Leiter discovered his passion for art at an early date and started painting as a teenager at the end of the 1940s. His family did not support him in his artistic endeavours as his father, a renowned Talmudic rabbi and scholar, always hoped his son Saul would one day follow him in the family tradition and become a rabbi. Leiter was self-taught, but by no means uneducated. He read and learned a lot about art, such that his knowledge and understanding constantly grew. In this way, he could be certain that his own thought and artistic efforts were duly related to the historical context, as Carrie Springer, curator at the Whitney Museum in New York, points out in the catalog.

 In 1946, shortly after he had moved to New York, Leiter got to know Richard Poussette-Dart, who introduced him to photography, a medium that Leiter found very much to his liking and which he quickly made his own. Leiter soon resolved to make use of photography not only as a means of making art but as a way of earning a living. He started taking fashion photographs and thanks to his good eye, his playful sense of humour, and his pronounced sense of elegance, swiftly emerged as an extraordinary fashion photographer.
 In the 1950s, LIFE magazine brought out the first photo-spreads of Saul Leiter’s first black-and-white images. For example, he took part in the exhibition on Always the young strangers (1953) curated by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art. From 1958 to 1967, Leiter worked for Harper’s Bazaar. All in all he was to spend some 20 years photographing for both the classic magazines and more recent ones, such as Esquire and Harper’s: Show, Elle, British Vogue, Queen and Nova.

Saul Leiter was born in 1923 in Pittsburgh and has lived since 1946 in New York. For over 40 years, until her death in 2002 New York artist Soames Bantry was his partner. During the preparations for the Hamburg exhibition, Saul Leiter once remarked that he wished that Soames Bantry has received the same attention from the art world as he is now receiving. This spawned the idea of an homage to Soames Bantry, an exhibition in the exhibition at House of Photography that Saul Leiter has himself curated – with over 20 paintings: For Soames with Love Saul. 

In his photographs, the genres of street life, portraiture, still lifes, fashion and architectural photography meld. He comes across his themes, such as shop windows, passers-by, cars, signs and (a recurrent motif) umbrellas, in the direct vicinity of his apartment in New York, where he has now lived for almost 60 years. The lack of clear detail, the blurring of movement and the reduction in depth of field, the compensation for or deliberate avoidance of the necessary light as well as the alienation caused by photographing through windows and by reflections all blend to create a language of colour fuelled by a semi-real, semi-abstract urban space. These are the works of an as good as undiscovered modern master of colour photography of the 1940s and 1950s. The Hamburg exhibition and the major monograph by Kehrer Verlag seek to prevent this happening.

Press release from The House of Photography website

 

Saul Leiter. 'Red Umbrella' c. 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Red Umbrella
c. 1958
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Snow' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Snow
1960
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Man with Straw Hat' c. 1955

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Man with Straw Hat
c. 1955
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Pizza, Patterson' 1952

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Pizza, Patterson
1952
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Canopy' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Canopy
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Through Boards' c. 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Through Boards
c. 1957
© Saul Leiter
Courtesy: Saul Leiter, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Deichtorhallen Hamburg
Deichtorstrasse 1-2
20095
Hamburg
Phone: +49 (0)40 32103-0

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday 11am – 6pm
Closed Mondays

Deichtorhallen Hamburg website

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01
Mar
12

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter: New York Reflections’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 24th October 2011 – 4th March 2012

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Taxi' 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
1957
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

“I must admit that I am not a member of the ugly school. I have a great regard for certain notions of beauty even though to some it is an old fashioned idea. Some photographers think that by taking pictures of human misery, they are addressing a serious problem. I do not think that misery is more profound than happiness.”

.
Saul Leiter

 

“Leiter’s sensibility… placed him outside the visceral confrontations with urban anxiety associated with photographers such as Robert Frank or William Klein. Instead, for him the camera provided an alternate way of seeing, of framing events and interpreting reality. He sought out moments of quiet humanity in the Manhattan maelstrom, forging a unique urban pastoral from the most unlikely of circumstances.”

.
Martin Harrison. ‘Saul Leiter Early Color’

 

 

The first of two postings on the underrated, underexposed American photographer Saul Leiter. These photographs are a delightful surprise! Some, like Through Boards (1957, below) are as illuminating as any Rothko going around. His art is not of the documentary gaze but of a brief glimpse, glanz, refulgence of desire ∞ snatched from the nonlinearity of time ∞ cleft in(to) its fabric. What wonderfully composed reflections they are. I absolutely adore them.

The media release states, “… but where his color photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in color.” Galleries must beware such bombastic claims: other photographers working in colour in the 1940s-50s include Paul OuterbridgeLászló Moholy-NagyNickolas MurayJack Smith, Eliot Porter and William Eggleston to name but a few (also see the posting on the exhibition Beyond COLOR: Color in American Photography, 1950-1970).

The second posting will be from a major retrospective of his work at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen.
Perhaps this photographer is finally getting the accolades he so rightly deserves.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Jewish Historical Museum for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Through Boards' 1957

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Through Boards
1957
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Harlem' 1960

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Harlem
1960
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Haircut' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Haircut
1956
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

From 24 October 2011 to 4 March 2012 the JHM is presenting a retrospective exhibition of the work of the American photographer and painter Saul Leiter (1923-2013). Following a long period of obscurity, Leiter’s work has recently been rediscovered in the United States and Europe. This is the first exhibition of his work in the Netherlands.

Saul Leiter is celebrated particularly for his painterly colour photographs of the street life in New York, which he produced between 1948 and 1960. Amid the hectic life of the city he captured tranquil moments of everyday beauty. He was able to transform mundane objects – a red umbrella in a snowstorm, a foot resting on a bench in the metro, or a human figure seen through the condensation on a pane of glass – into what has been described as ‘urban visual poetry’. His photographs are frequently layered, near-abstract compositions of reflections and shadows, which recall paintings by abstract expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning, with whom Leiter felt a strong affinity.

Saul Leiter is seen as belonging to the New York School of Photographers, a group of innovative artists, most of them Jewish, who achieved fame in New York in the period 1936-1963, primarily with their images of the street and their documentary photography. His black-and-white work displays a lyricism, dreaminess and surrealism that might prompt comparison with photographers such as Ted Croner, Leon Levinstein and Louis Faurer, but where his colour photography is concerned, he cannot be compared with any other photographer. In the 1940s and 1950s, Leiter was virtually the only non-commercial photographer working in colour.

Born in Pittsburgh, Leiter was destined to become a rabbi like his father. But his growing interest in art led him to abandon his religious studies. Instead, he went to New York and dedicated himself to painting. His friendship there with the abstract expressionist painter Richard Pousette-Dart, who was experimenting with photography, and the work of the photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, inspired Leiter to take up photography. His friendship with the photographer W. Eugene Smith was another inspiring influence.

The exhibition Saul Leiter: New York Reflections was prepared by the JHM in collaboration with the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York. Besides over 60 colour and 40 black-and-white examples of his street photography, a small selection of fashion photographs, paintings, and painted photographs will be shown. Visitors will also be able to watch a recent documentary about Leiter by the British film maker Tomas Leach. This autumn, the publisher Steidl will be publishing the third edition of Early Color, the first book of Leiter’s photographs, compiled in 2006 by Martin Harrison of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Press release from the Jewish Historical Museum website

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Foot on El' 1954

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Foot on El
1954
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Paris' 1959

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Paris
1959
© Saul Leiter, Collection Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Reflection' 1958

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Reflection
1958
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013) 'Taxi' 1956

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Taxi
1956
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

Saul Leiter. 'Walk with Soames' Nd

 

Saul Leiter (American, 1923-2013)
Walk with Soames
Nd
© Saul Leiter, Courtesy Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

 

 

Jewish Historical Museum
Nieuwe Amstelstraat
1
1011 PL Amsterdam
Phone: +31 (0)20 5 310 310

Opening hours:
daily from 11.00 – 17.00

Jewish Historical Museum website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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