Seeing is Believing: Leon Levinstein in India and Nepal, Photographers and Photographs

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [Outdoor portrait studio, India], ca. 1978 (2012.114.49)

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [Man in front of photographer’s backdrop, India], ca. 1978 (2012.114.22)

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [Street photography], ca. 1978 (158.1999)

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [Untitled], ca. 1978 (160.1999)

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [People looking through stereoscopes, India], 1978 (2012.114.18)

This is the first in a new series, Seeing is Believing: Leon Levinstein, of blog posts that will present photographs made by Leon Levinstein. Although perhaps best known for the photographs made on the streets and sidewalks (and beaches) of New York City, Levinstein traveled and photographed widely (and wildly).

In the late 70s and early 80s, “1977-78, 79-80, 81, 82, 85” (Leon Levinstein: Obsession, Sam Stourdzé, 2000, p. 279), when Levinstein was around 70 years old, after about 30 years of experience as a photographer, he explored and worked in India and Nepal.

For context, in an application for a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Levinstein, who was awarded a fellowship in 1975, wrote [perhaps not too long after Indian independence in 1947] of his desire to:

“Photograph India’s efforts to build a strong and enduring democracy… to show Americans the positive side of India, such as the [still active The World Bank’s] Communities Development Project, whereby India is giving new hope and raising the standard of living of its people, by democratic means and with the assistance of American expertise… Part of my project seeks to show how, in the most dire situations, when judiciously used, American technology can help local governments to eradicate the scourges that are famine, poverty and illiteracy.” (Leon Levinstein: Obsession, Sam Stourdzé, 2000, p. 285).

The stated humanist, productive, almost patriotic and progressive intentions of the photographs made in India may not be initially obvious, but are visible, after all, seeing is believing.

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988), [Photographs], ca. 1978 (139.1999)

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