Close Up: Leon Levinstein

Oct 22nd


Author By Bruce
CategoryPosted in Close Up

Close Up is a small series on photographers or photographs that are important to me. On this first installment I’ll discuss photographer and friend Leon Levinstein (1913-1988).

Photographs © Leon Levinstein / Howard Greenberg Gallery.

Though he did not start taking photographs until he was over 40 years old, he was a brilliant photographer. When we met in the early 70’s, he was with Harry Lapow, another photographer in Coney Island. He was carrying a Leica and a Rolleiflex and I had a Leica and we started talking. Leon was a loner but we got along well. In the ensuing years, in NYC on 5th Avenue, he would always tease me in a friendly manner after I took a picture saying that I only photographed women because I would have been knocked out if I photographed men in the same manner.

I once asked him if we could trade photographs and he gave me a terse reply: “I don’t trade photographs.” But after helping him move his lifetime belongings several times in my van, he gave me two photographs, one of which is hanging on my wall.

Another time I remember being in Coney Island, and the NY Times magazine cover was a Mark Cohen photograph of the girl blowing the bubble and I said I liked it. He told me that I was crazy and that I didn’t know anything about photography. He wouldn’t talk to me at all during the long train ride back to NYC.

He had his beliefs, I had mine. We were friends.