(Buckhannon, West Virginia, 1910 - 1988, New York, New York)
Levinstein spent thirty-five years photographing people roaming the streets of New York City after moving there in 1946. His mentors included Edward Steichen, Alexey Brodovitch of Harper’s Bazaar and Sid Grossman of the Photo League. Although his work was featured in art and photography magazines during the 1950s and 60s, Levinstein was never eager to become involved in the art world. He mainly kept to himself, working as a graphic designer to make a living and taking photographs in his spare time. Levinstein’s aloof demeanor allowed him to blend in with the crowd so that he could take raw, documentary-style photographs of people from all walks of life.
Levinstein’s photographs were featured in Edward Steichen’s exhibition “The Family Man” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1955 and a solo exhibition at Helen Gee’s Limelight Gallery the following year. In 1975 he received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation to support his work, which has work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions nationally and in Europe and Canada. The National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa composed a retrospective exhibition catalogue, The Moment of Exposure: Leon Levinstein, in 1995. The Metropolitan Museum of Art held an exhibition highlighting his career in 2010 entitled “Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein’s New York Photographs, 1950-1980.” In 2012, the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York presented “Leon Levinstein,” an exhibition featuring more than fifty black and white prints.