Builder Levy was born in Tampa, Florida in 1942, and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BA in art from Brooklyn College of City University of New York (1964), where he studied painting with Ad Reinhardt, photography with Walter Rosenblum and art history with Milton Brown. He studied the Photo League and the photography program of the Farm Security Administration in conjunction with his master’s degree in art education at New York University (1966). Close friendships with Paul Strand and Helen Levitt added insights into his role and possibilities as an artist. He worked as a New York City teacher of at-risk adolescents for thirty-five years and photographed in his students’ inner city communities.
Levy was awarded Fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Alicia Patterson Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Puffin Foundation. He was awarded a Furthermore publication grant by the J.M. Kaplan Fund. He received two commissions from the Appalachian College Association.
His three books are: Images of Appalachian Coalfields, (foreword by Cornell Capa), Builder Levy Photographer (introduction by Naomi Rosenblum, and Appalachia USA (published by David R. Godine, Foreword by Denise Giardina), reviewed by Vanity Fair (Feb/2014). His work is included in more than thirty other books of photographs.
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, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ruhrland Museum, and the Bibliothèque nationale.
Levy’s work has appeared in more than two hundred exhibitions, including more than fifty one-person shows. The High Museum of Art included ssome of his iconic work in Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968. The Rubin Museum of Art in New York City featured his photographs in Mongolia: Beyond Chinggis Khan. He is included in the Asia Society’s exhibition Coal + Ice, opening in Shanghai, China in May 2015. His Appalachia USA exhibition will open at the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida in July 2015.
His Developing Nations exhibition at the Flomenhaft Gallery (NYC) was reviewed in Art News Oct/2012. His recent retrospective at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery (Atlanta) was reviewed by Stephanie Cash in Photograph magazine Jan/Feb 2015.