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Portfolio & Interview: Michael Levin on his New Color Portfolio

photo-eye Gallery Portfolio & Interview: Michael Levin on his New Color Portfolio Known for his dramatic black and white landscapes, we are thrilled to release a portfolio of color work from Michael Levin. Levin also shares some of his thoughts on his transition to color.
New Work by Gallery Artist Michael Levin installed at photo-eye Gallery

photo-eye Gallery is thrilled to have a selection of new color images by Canadian photographer Michael Levin currently on view, and a portfolio of the work available on the website.  Color is new for Levin who has earned a stellar reputation for dramatic black and white landscapes where long exposures melt sea and sky, developing an emotional sense of place rather than a static document of specific location. These new images continue this expression, with color underscoring the dynamic line and subtle tones of Levin's impeccable compositions. We asked the artist to share a little about his transition to color, the inspiration behind his circular images, and what's next.

Mendocino, California, 2014 – Michael Levin

photo-eye:     How did this body of work get started? Do you see it as an extension of your black-and-white imagery or a departure from it? 

Michael Levin:     Back in 2012 while visiting The Louvre in Paris, I was particularly fascinated by several landscape paintings on view in the circular format. Telling a story in a circle struck me as a curious challenge and I thought that it would be an interesting idea to compose photographs in that format. I started researching and it turns out the one of the first Kodak camera’s produced images in circles, the No 1 camera. I liked the idea of photographing places that existed hundreds of years ago with the latest modern technology and then infusing a color palette reminiscent of a bygone era.

Sunshower, 2014 – Michael Levin

 pe:    How and why did you make the decision to work in color? How do you see the color informing your images?

ML:    My interest in colour photography really began when I transitioned from film to digital. For more than a decade I've been employing long exposures in my images to soften and smooth out the landscape. When I started with the digital camera the long exposures shifted the colors in interesting unpredictable ways and this was the spark of something new and fresh. Stripping away the color in a image and then infusing a new palette is exciting and challenging, it's what keeps me fully engaged in the new work. I realize now that colour photography was making me look at different subject matter and for the most part I’m more removed from the scene, looking at it from a distance. I‘m pre-visualizing the scene much more so with colours always swirling around in my head while I’m shooting. While this is a contrast from my black and white work I do think they are similar bodies of work.

pe:     Do you have a name for the project as of yet?

ML:     I don't really think in terms of projects, it's really just a journey I'm on and the work is a result of my experiences in the world. I'm working on a number of different ideas at any given time but I'm very selective in terms of what gets released. The images that you are now showing are really the results of 3 years of traveling through Europe, Asia and the US. During this time I also worked on a number of different images in black and white that have a decidedly different feel to them.

Approaching Rains, 2012 – Michael Levin

pe:     Speaking of journey and travel, how do you select locations to photograph? 

ML:     It’s really quite an organic process in the sense that there’s very little preparation in advance. Once I land at the airport I get into the rental car and it’s at that point that I decide which way to travel. I never book hotels in advance so I really have no commitment, it’s very freeing. I've always had a curiosity for the road less traveled and photography is a way to explore and capture those experiences. On the flip side of that is the fact that although I take may shots very few end up in my portfolio.

pe:     Do you spend time there before the image is made? Do you find your self returning to the same place more than once?

ML:     Once I find a location that I think has potential I’ll consider all the possibilities such as lighting, tides, clouds, etc. If I look over my portfolio I can say confidently that a majority of the images are the result of multiple visits to the same location, in some cases over days and even years. Very few of my images are taken the first time I visit the location. There are so many factors that determine a successful image and I really am committed to making the image as strong as possible.

Harvest Moon, 2014 – Michael Levin

pe:     Harvest Moon is one of your newest images. Can you tell us a little about how it was created? 

The Harvest Moon scene viewed during the day on a 
reconnaissance trip by Michael Levin
ML:     While the majority of my photographs are taken after sunset when the light is quite low, I rarely take images in what we perceive to be darkness. In the case of Harvest Moon all the weather conditions were perfect for taking a photograph during a full moon. On the property I was staying at in Provence was a remarkable garden that the owners faithfully restored from a bygone era. It had been beautifully maintained and I really felt there was something to capture here but not in the typical way. I calculated the trajectory of the moon during the day and spent the afternoon composing shots in the garden while keeping in mind I wanted the moon to be a strong visual element. So, this photograph is the result of a 60 minute exposure as the moon streaks across illuminating the landscape. Upon reviewing the images I realized that it wasn’t quite right so I did some more calculations and took another shot the next night, which happened to be the full moon. So this single image is the result of two days planning.

Star Trails (Ise Bay), 2014 – Michael Levin

pe:     What's next for you?

ML:     Since 2007 I've been working on black and white images that explore more urban environments and how we interact in these spaces. I’m still employing the long exposure techniques which hides or removes people from these scenes, so all the viewer is left with is an architectural space to consider. These photographs were the results of my numerous travels through Europe and Asia while simultaneously working on the black and white seascapes that I’m mostly know for. These images are more about the architecture of place that can sometimes be identifiable, whereas my other work is more elusive in terms of locations. I’m hoping by the end of this year I will have this grouping of images completed.

View Michael Levin's New Work

For more information, or to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505.988.5152 or