Friday Fusions … reflecting and refracting on Saul Leiter & Mildred Pierce for vintage engagement shoot inspiration

Sometimes my engagement shoot ideas are very practical like the spring engagement shoot ideas and ways to save you money on your shoot etc-.

But personally, sometimes my inspiration is abstract so it makes sense for me to provide abstract engagement shoot ideas and inspiration.

Today I’m drawing on inspiration from Saul Leiter. If you’ve studied photography you might be familiar with his work but I only first came across his work last week when I watched the making of Mildred Pierce (thanks Teresa for sharing!). Mildred Pierce is a new mini-series staring Kate Winslet and it looks fabulous!


In the ‘making of documentary’ the director Todd Haynes and cinematographer Edward Lachman refer to Saul Leiter’s work as a source of inspiration for the shooting style of the film. Saul Leiter is an American photographer whose work in the 1940s and 1950s incorporated lots of windows, reflections and refractions. I haven’t studied photography and can’t comment on the technical side of things but I can tell you my experience of his images.

When I look at Leiter’s work I feel transported back in time. Unlike a ‘front on’ image, the reflected images of Leiter’s work transport me back in time and space because I’m viewing the scene or image through another filter (eg. the window). I’m really not sure how to explain it but it feels like there is a ‘double layering of intention’ that deepens my perspective. I’m not just an observer looking at a photograph from the past. I’m now back in that era observing a scene / moment.

It’s like a) He’s telling me where I’m sitting and my line of sight and b) he’s telling me what I’m observing outside and what environment or era I’m currently living in and c) he makes it consciously obvious to me that what I’m seeing is a small snippet and moment in time (the moment in time effect becomes minute through the reflection). No matter how ‘insignificant’ the image outside may seem, it becomes significant through the act of observing through a reflection.

“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

For me, a reflected image, if captured well … show’s a micro moment passing in time. eg. the act of seeing your reflection when pressing a button in a lift … it happens, you see the reflection, it’s insignificant and then it’s gone. However if that passing moment can be captured … it could become quite interesting …

So how does any of this relate to engagement shoots?
Two ways actually …

(i) Shoot your vintage shoot using the photographic style / eye of that era
First of all there are literally hundreds and hundreds of vintage inspired engagement shoots out there. Cute, sweet, dressed up and taken in a very contemporary modern style. My idea would be to suggest doing a vintage inspired engagement that is shot the way a movie from that era would have been shot back then. Or to take the photos in the same style as what photographers from that era would have done. You’d definitely need to find a photographer that understands that technical stuff / style or at least one willing to experiment.

(ii) Do a whole shoot with reflections
My second idea is to do a photo shoot inspired by Leiter’s work – a shoot governed by and directed through the reflections of windows, dusty surfaces, reflections of rain, water, humid surfaces. I think it would be bloody hard to do. But if you could nail it, it would be exceptional. A love story through momentary reflections. I love it!




ps. How amazing is this reflective movie poster of Kate Winslet? It’s definitely very “Leitery”!

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