Saul Leiter

April 22, 2015

Are there two kinds of artists, the ones obsessed with beauty (art for art's sake) and the truth-tellers, who grab you to explain, who have a point to make?

Saul Leiter was clearly the former: "Saul had a love of beauty," wrote his former assistant Tony Cenicola, now a NYT photographer. "He didn’t like art that was harsh. He had a way of seeing beauty in everything."

What about ambition? “In order to build a career and be successful,” Leiter said, “one has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and paint when I feel like it.”

Are most artists both at various times? Does this photo (or any photo, painting or poem) need to be anything but beautiful?