Builder Levy
“Photographer Builder Levy’s Appalachia USA (David R. Godine) does for today’s coal miners what Walker Evans did for sharecroppers and tenant farmers in the Dust Bowl.” —Vanity Fair
Bio Summary


BUILDER LEVY was born in Tampa, FL in 1942 and raised in Brooklyn during the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War, in a family that encouraged art and believed the world needed to be changed. He received a BA in art from Brooklyn College (1964), where he studied painting with Ad Reinhardt and photography with Walter Rosenblum, who became a mentor and friend. He received a master’s degree in art education at NYU (1966). For a paper in one course he studied the Photo League, the FSA photography program, and the Kamoinge Workshop. From his days as a student, his development continued as a member of, and later, a leader of the Photographers Forum, a NYC based group started by Rosenblum and other ex Photo Leaguers. Levy’s close friendships with Paul Strand and Helen Levitt added insights into his role and possibilities as an artist. In addition, working as a NYC teacher of inner-city teens for 34 ½ years enriched his vision.

Among numerous awards, he received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2008), Alicia Patterson Foundation (2004), and National Endowment of the Arts in Photography (1981).

His books are: Images of Appalachian Coalfields, Temple University Press, foreword by Cornell Capa, Builder Levy Photographer, essay by Naomi Rosenblum, and Appalachia USA, published by David R. Godine, foreword by Denise Giardina. His work is included in over forty other books, as well as in several films, most notably, Raul Peck’s I am Not your Negro about James Baldwin, 2017, and Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War PBS series (premiering 9/17/17).

His photographs are in more than 80 collections including the Sir Elton John Photography Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, High Museum of Art, International Center of Photography, Metropolitan Museum of Art Watson Library, Brooklyn Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Chrysler Museum of Art, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ruhrland Museum, and the Bibliothèque nationale.

He has had more than 250 exhibitions, including more than 60 solo shows. He was featured in the exhibitions Road to Freedom, Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968, High Museum of Art, Women and the Civil Rights Movement, Chrysler Museum of Art, Mongolia: Beyond Chinggis Khan, a two-photographer exhibit at the Rubin Museum of Art. His exhibition Developing Nations at the Flomenhaft Gallery, NYC, was reviewed in Art News in Oct/2012. His more than four-decade project, Appalachia USA, opened at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL in 2015, travelled to the Museum of Fine Arts, FSU in Tallahassee, and the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville, CO, in 2016. It goes to the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia in 2018. Levy’s solo exhibit at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery booth at AIPAD –The Photography Show 2017– was noted by Roberta Smith in her New York Times Review, (3/31/17). He is currently included in the exhibition Everyday Beauty at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (July 1017-Jan 2018). He is also included in the Peter Fetterman Gallery show, The Art of the Platinum Print (Sept 9-11/25 2017).

His photographs and/or articles about Levy have appeared in more than 200 periodicals, including on four front covers and two back covers of the historic African American cultural quarterly, Freedomways.

“Photographer Builder Levy’s Appalachia USA (David R. Godine) does for today’s coal miners what Walker Evans did for sharecroppers and tenant farmers in the Dust Bowl.” —Vanity Fair Feb/2014

With an aesthetic grounded in realism infused with an intense humanity, Levy’s hand printed gold-toned gelatin silver print and platinum print photographs blend social documentary, fine art, and street photography – distinct approaches often kept separate by so many others – “to produce works of power and beauty.”
—Naomi Rosenblum

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