I’ve written before about not really needing another Saul Leiter book. I mean, I have Early Color and Early Black & White and, thanks to Charcoal, All about Saul Leiter. But something about Forever Saul Leiter tickled my fancy and at $25, shipped from the UK—at time of purchase it was unavailable in the US—I couldn’t pass it up.
Be aware: there are a few sorta NSFW photographs in the book, as one expects from Leiter. They’re few and far between, and, still, knowledge is power and forewarned is forearmed.
If you’re wholly unaware of Saul Leiter, I hope the rock you’ve been hiding under for the last decade is at least comfortable, and Forever Saul Leiter (or All about Saul Leiter) might be a good place to start. Unlike the earlier books, the two fairly recent Saul Leiter Foundation books are inexpensive and really very friendly.
In my review of All about Saul Leiter, I went on and on about pictures printed across the gutter, and you can perhaps hear me grumble about it in the unboxing this time. I didn’t realize it at first, but Forever Saul Leiter and All about Saul Leiter are very very similar. The trim size, printing quality, and relative layout—many many photographs, peppered with quotes from Leiter on process and life, with an essay or three at the end—are identical, and both books appeared in conjunction with an exhibition of Leiter’s work in Japan. My copy of All about… is mostly in Japanese and came directly from a 2017 exhibition of the same name. (Looking at the colophon, my All about… is the 8th Seigensha edition, printed October 28, 2017. It must’ve been wildly popular, as the first edition was printed a mere 4 months earlier, on May 15.) This copy of Forever Saul Leiter is a first edition of the Thames & Hudson 2021 UK printing of the 2020 Shogakukan original. Still, despite 3 different publishers, and 4 or so years distance, the books seem largely identical.
For the most part, I think the images in Forever… are different from those in All about…, for the most part. Like most photographers, Leiter has a few must-include shots: that one of his sister that was on the cover of one of the Early Black & White books, a handful of the more popular color street scenes. That said, and like most other photographers, Leiter left behind a massive archive that the Saul Leiter Foundation slowly mines for gems, and they found some new ones for this book (and, presumably, the long-closed exhibition).
At time of publication, the Foundation had an intern or assistant grad student cataloguing and studying Leiter’s massive trove of slides. A few of these slides appear near the end of the book, reproduced on black pages. There’s some interest there, though you have to work at it: the slides are mostly presented four to a page, and with the black paper, they look dim and hard to discern. That said, I look forward to a book of Leiter’s slide work in the coming years…
Now. Really, I really didn’t need another Leiter book. Honestly. I love the work, really and truly, but Early Color is, for me, the Leiter book, the one against which all others are judged. Early Black & White is likewise great. But both of those are beautifully printed long-out-of-print books that are now wildly expensive.* Forever Saul Leiter is inexpensive, well-printed, and worth picking up, as is All about Saul Leiter. They’re both friendly little books, perfect for sitting by a window, slowly “reading” on an early Sunday morning (as I did).
Forever Saul Leiter made it to the US, and you can find copies cheap. It’s well worth $20 or $25, and if you appreciate mid-20th Century color photography—Leiter shot on the streets of NYC, but I wouldn’t call his work “street photography”—it’s worth engaging with this work, especially if you don’t already have a good familiarity with Leiter and his work.
*At time of writing, used copies of Early Color start at $300; the two-volume Early Black & White runs 6$100.