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Last week, Howard Greenberg and his gallery teamed up with Gerhard Steidl, the preeminent German art and photography book publisher, to launch their new imprint “Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library,” with the release of three monographs – Saul Leiter: Early Black and White, James Karales, and Leon Levinstein.

“Steidl is a gifted publisher who prints photography books at the caliber they deserve to be printed,” says Howard Greenberg. “It’s a wonderful partnership, and we will be working on photography books for many years to come.”

I spoke with Greenberg before the event to find out how this extraordinary pairing of two such important figures in the photography world came together to create this new venture. Greenberg, as always, was generous with his time and candid with his explanations.

Elizabeth Avedon: How did the idea of your co-publishing project with Steidl begin?

Howard Greenberg: That conversation started in this kitchen. I had gotten off to a good start with Steidl when he published the Saul Leiter: Early Color book. We had a new business relationship over that book and got along well. Gerhard loved Saul and the book. He still does. It’s in its 4th printing and he hasn’t done that with any other book. We got to know each other and I introduced him to Ron Kurtz and Hank O’Neal, that brought on the Berenice Abbott books. I introduced him to the Gordon Parks Foundation people, and that brought on the Gordon Parks book. In the process of all that, Gerhard was sitting here one day and he asked me if I wanted to publish more books with him, maybe with a special imprint. He liked the photographers that I show and many of them don’t have books or are not so well known, so he opened the door to this co-publishing project. That was probably four years ago.

I said yes – and then I thought about it seriously. I would still have the expense and responsibility to make the books and deliver them to him, he would publish and put them out there, but it was a lot to do. I was ambivalent about it. I didn’t do anything for a good year after he made that invitation except I published a book on Minor White to accompany the Minor White show. I didn’t work with Steidl on it because it was already in the works; I worked with Nathan Lyons and Meridian printed it for me. A beautiful little book, Eye Mind Spirit: The Enduring Legacy of Minor White. I received a lot of positive comments about that book that compelled me to move forward with Gerhard.

I hired Bob Shamis who had been the former Curator of the Museum of the City of New York for about seven years, prior to that we worked on a Leon Levinstein project together. He curated that show for the National Gallery of Canada and wrote the essay for the catalog, Leon Levinstein: The Moment of Exposure. I knew he was a quality guy. So Bob Shamis, along with Greg Wakabayashi, my designer for many years, and I decided we would develop some of these books for Steidl. I had a short list.

Saul Leiter: Early Black & White, published in two volumes, came quickly. Gerhard really wanted to get it done and get it out. But the other two, Leon Levinstein and James Karales, took three years to get printed. There were all kinds of delays. It took a long, long time, but when those books arrived here one day, I have to say it was worth the wait. They are gorgeous.

EA: What books can we expect in the future?

HG: We have three or four in the works right now. Upcoming books include monographs on Sid Grossman, Dan Weiner, Lewis Hine – a segment of Hine’s work that’s never been published, and a two-volume project on husband and wife Morris Engel and Ruth Orkin. There’s some conversation about Anton Bruehl, who I represented for years. He was one of the great Condé Nast photographers that have been totally forgotten at this point. Those are guys I’d like to do – people who had great careers, were wonderful photographers, but there’s no literature on them to speak of.

Saul Leiter: Early Black and White
Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
2 volumes, 388 pages
ISBN 978-3-86521-413-3

James Karales
Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
176 pages
ISBN 978-3-86930-444-1 

Leon Levinstein
Steidl / Howard Greenberg Library
320 pages
ISBN 978-3-86930-443-4

Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street, Suite 1406
New York, New York 

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Saul Leiter

Although Edward Steichen exhibited some of Saul Leiter’s color photographs at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953, for forty years afterwards they remained virtually unknown to the art world. Leiter moved to New York in 1946 intending to...

James H. Karales

James H. Karales (1930-2002) was a photographer and photo-essayist best known for his work with Look magazine from 1960 to 1971. At Look he covered the Civil Rights Movement throughout its duration, taking many of the movements memorable ph...

Leon Levinstein

Leon Levinstein est un photographe américain, né en 1910 à Buckhannon, West Virginia. Il s'installe à New York en 1946. Cette ville devient rapidement son principal centre d'intérêt.

Saul Leiter
Early Black and White

The distinctive iconography of Saul Leiter’s early black and white photographs stems from his profound response to the dynamic street life of New York City in the late 1940s and 50s. While this technique borrowed aspects of the photodocumentary, Leiter’s imagery ...