Visiting distinguished photographer Builder Levy presented works from his Appalachian series in a public conversation with Art History Professor Emerita Paula Gerson on February 25 in the Fine Arts Building. The interview was held in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition Builder Levy: Appalachia USA, showing in the FSU Museum of Fine Arts through March 27, 2016. Levy, who has been awarded fellowships by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts, is best known for the social documentary photographs he has been taking of mining communities in Appalachia for over forty years, a body of work that has produced three major books and numerous exhibitions around the country. Longtime friends and residents of New York, Levy and Professor Gerson examined the themes that have centrally occupied the photographer over the course of his career: inner-city Brooklyn, the Civil Rights Movement, and the mining industry.
Levy creates hand printed gold-toned gelatin silver print and platinum print photographs that blend fine art, social documentary, and street photography, creating images that are both beautiful and powerful. He was born in Tampa in 1942 and raised in Brooklyn. As a student at Brooklyn College, Levy thought of himself as an abstract expressionist, but by the time he had obtained his Master’s degree in art education from NYU, he was focusing mainly on making photographs in his need to be more deeply immersed in the social realities of his time, and in his desire to physically create a new consciousness in and of the world. His photographs have appeared in more than two hundred exhibitions and are part of more than eighty permanent collections, including the Sir Elton John Photography Collection, International Center of Photography, Brooklyn Museum, The Ringling Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The current exhibtion at the Museum of Fine Arts was originally organized and exhibited by The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in 2015.