I kind of get the feeling from looking at Saul Leiter’s artful and beautiful street photos that he is more comfortable keeping his subjects at a distance. They are often shot from behind glass or surreptitiously from across the street.
Normally when I see this kind of distance from the subject I think of Robert Capa’s maxim ‘if your pictures aren’t good enough you’re not close enough’ but clearly Leiter’s fine images are good enough.
His work is non-confrontational and fixates instead on the creation of visual beauty in a world of chaos, rather than getting up in the faces of his subjects. Whereas in the work of a photographer like William Klein we’re very aware of the characters of the people being shot, in Leiter’s work it’s unimportant in the way that the fruit in a still life would be.
Incidentally, found a great interview with the man on ‘Photographers Speak’ that’s worth reading.