Leon Levinstein was born in West Virginia in 1910. After attending Maryland Institute of Arts in Baltimore, he enrolled in the army and was stationed in Panama as a mechanic. In 1946, he moved to New York City and began his life-long devotion to street photography. Levinstein’s influences and mentors include Stuart Davis and Harper’s Bazaar artistic director Alexey Brodovitch, as well as John Ebstel and Sid Grossman of the Photo League. Although Levinstein worked alongside Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, and Robert Frank, he did not consider himself a professional photographer and much of his fame and recognition was attributed after his death in 1988. During his lifetime, he had one solo exhibit at Helen Gee’s Limelight Gallery and through the efforts of Edward Steichen, his work appeared in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art.
There has been a renewed interest and appreciation for Levinstein’s work, including a solo show at Steven Kasher Gallery in 2012 as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition in 2010 entitled Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players: Leon Levinstein's New York Photographs, 1950-1980. Levinstein’s work has been acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson; the Hallmark Collection, Kansas City; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.Rose Mathies