Saul Leiter's TAXI

Saul Leiter's TAXI (American, 1923-2013)
Why is this such a great photo? What stands out to you? Certainly the colors demand our attention. The wall in the background is orangish-red complimenting the reddish-orange paint on the cab, which in turn reflects off the dashboard of the car from which the picture is taken. Add a flash of brilliant yellow and viola you have a color palette rivaling the most dazzling of any desert sunset.  


What about the photo’s action? Why do we seem to be moving? Is it that our perspective is slightly behind the car we’re looking at- like we’re trying to catch up? Everything changes if we’re ahead of the car, looking back.  What about the man’s hand?  Maybe he’s trying to find something to hold on to or he’s pointing while yelling directions. The entire photo is different, stagnant even, without this hand. We're simply next to a car stopped in traffic. What about the back window in brilliant silver? Hints of a rocket ship? An overstatement maybe, but we can't see through the glass, which does cause a blur of light and speed.

What about the man being dressed in a suit? This too influences our impression. An important person pointing or holding on to something or both?  Not only does the photo change entirely if the cab is empty, it changes if the person is dressed casually. Then it’s the weekend or just a tourist perhaps.  With our photo here, it’s a workday: the streets are bustling and we have an important person with an important place to be!  

Also, you can’t ignore the the camera’s exposure which puts a quarter of the photo into darkness.  The cab driver in silhouette adds mystery, forcing us to imagine this person. Also, notice  the black space in the bottom left corner that extends across the entire bottom of the photo. This space not only provides an entry point into the photo but also a place where we can sit (hide?) and observe. The photo would be cluttered and claustrophobic without this black space. 

Upon first glance, this photo seems like just an abstract blur of color. Upon second, you notice how the photo changes entirely if even the smallest of detail were different.    

No comments: