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


Photographer artist Builder Levy was awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Alicia Patterson Foundation, National Endowment of the Arts, Puffin Foundation, a Furthermore publication grant, two commissions from the Appalachian College Association and, most recently, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Brooklyn College Alumni Association.

His four hard-covered books are: Images of Appalachian Coalfields, foreword by Cornell Capa; Builder Levy Photographer, essay by Naomi Rosenblum; Appalachia USA, foreword by Denise Giardina; and Humanity in the Streets: New York City, 1960s–1980s, foreword by Deborah Willis.

His work has been in over 325 exhibitions, including more than 60 one-person shows. His work was included in SHEGO/HEGO/EGO – McEvoy Family Collection, Salon d’Honneur, Paris Photo 2018; Road To Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956–1968, High Museum of Art; Everyday Beauty, Smithsonian NMAAHC; Women and the Civil Rights Movement, Chrysler Museum of Art; Mongolia: Beyond Chinggis Khan, Rubin Museum of Art; King in New York, Museum of the City of NY; and The Art of the Platinum Print, Peter Fetterman Gallery. He had solo shows at the University of Kentucky Art Museum; West Virginia State Museum–The Cultural Center; Knoxville Museum of Art; and the Doris Ulmann Galleries, the art museum of Berea College. Levy’s show, Appalachia USA, spanning four decades of his work, opened at the Ringling Museum of Art in 2015, and has been travelling since, including to the Museum of Fine Arts, FSU, Tallahassee; Huntington Museum of Art, in WV; and Miners Hall of Fame and Museum, Leadville, CO. His new exhibition, Humanity in the Streets, was shown at the Brooklyn Historical Society in 2019.

His work is in more than 80 collections including that of Sir Elton John, Nion McEvoy, International Center of Photography, High Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Chrysler Museum of Art, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Smithsonian NMAAHC, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum of the City of New York, Huntington Museum of Art, Victoria and Albert Museum, Ruhrland Museum, and Bibliotheque Nationale.

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 “to produce works of power and beauty.”
    —Naomi Rosenblum, from her essay Engaged with Life; Engaged with Art

A graduate of Brooklyn College (CUNY), where he majored in art, Levy studied painting with Ad Reinhardt, art history with Milton Brown, and photography with Walter Rosenblum, who became a mentor and friend. He earned a master’s degree in art education at NYU, where he incorporated the study of the FSA photography program, the Photo League, and the Kamoinge Workshop, whose founding director was Roy DeCarava. Friendships with Paul Strand (with whom he lived for ten days) and Helen Levitt added insights into his role as an artist. Working with teens as a NYC teacher for 35 years, enriched his vision.

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