Annie Levy: Giving life by taking pictures
Fourth in a Comment series on under-appreciated artists.
The first thing you notice about Annie Levy's portraits is the beauty of the subjects' eyes—luminous, soulful, serene. But these subjects aren't the conventional, young, beautiful models. Instead, with a deep, faith-driven love of personal histories, Levy focuses on two oft-neglected worlds: medicine and the elderly. She has a deep passion for sight—not merely a photographer's interest in looks and aesthetics, but a reflection of Jesus' ability to see people as individual works of art.
Tall, vivacious, and well-spoken, Annie Levy was born and raised in New York City. Although some might say that a childhood spent in the concrete jungle stifles the imagination, Levy is a living testament to city-born creativity which she attributes to both her upbringing and her surroundings. "My parents were always encouraging of an imaginary universe," she says. "Any inanimate object could come alive at any minute."
A self-described "math and science nerd," Levy attended the prestigious Bronx High School of Science, graduated when she was sixteen, and then studied film at New York University. But she always had a camera at her disposal, and her parents encouraged her interests. "My dad gave me a camera when I was very young, and when I was a teenager, he bought me a used Nikon Camera. It was a huge deal, because that was a 'real' camera, and as I recall, it seemed to cost a lot of money," remembers Levy. "My parents' priority was travel and seeing the world, so I took pictures everywhere we went." In those days, the New York City subways were covered with elaborate, often artistic graffiti, and their function as moving art museums fueling Levy's fascination with placing art in non-traditional settings.
While her scientific background provided some connection to the world of medicine, her training in film instilled a particular empathy with people's stories. Levy is not simply a photographer who captures beautiful images, but one who seeks out the story in a place and seeks to create a project that says what the place is about.
In college, Levy worked with friends on creating a rock music magazine, writing articles and taking the accompanying photographers. She did an interview and portrait of punk rocker Joey Ramone for the magazine Hit Parader, writing the article in the first person. This experience helped her identify her passion for "knowing someone in their own words."