Menu

Guide to the Gary Davis collection of Leon Levinstein photographs, 1950s-1970s

Summary

Collection consists of 38 black-and-white photographs taken by Leon Levinstein from the 1950s to the 1970s. The images, usually taken at close range and at unusual angles, portray children, women, and men of all races and backgrounds - many of them marginalized - on New York City streets and on the beach. Locations include Harlem, Manhattan, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island. There are also photographs of people in Haiti. and a few from India and Mexico. Most of the unmounted gelatin silver prints measure approximately 11x14 inches, with several larger prints. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11358
Title
Gary Davis collection of Leon Levinstein photographs
Date
1950s-1970s
Creator
Levinstein, Leon, 1910-1988
Extent
1.5 Linear Feet, 3 boxes
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English.

Collection Overview

Content Description

Collection consists of 38 black-and-white photographs taken by Leon Levinstein from the 1950s to the 1970s. The images, usually taken at close range and at unusual angles, portray children, women, and men of all races and backgrounds - many of them marginalized - on New York City streets and on the beach. Locations include Harlem, Manhattan, the Lower East Side, and Coney Island. There are also photographs of people in Haiti. and a few from India and Mexico. Only one scene, a piano in a room, has no people in it.

Levinstein deliberately left his images untitled and undated, thus most prints in this inventory are accompanied by content descriptions created by a collector or dealer, or, in a few cases, by library staff. Almost all the prints bear a photographer's stamp on the back and a few are signed by Levinstein. Most of the prints measure approximately 11x14 inches, with a few larger prints; in the dimensions given, height precedes width.

Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Collection is open for research. Images may only be used for educational, non-commercial purposes.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], Gary Davis collection of Leon Levinstein photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

No known title, 1950s-1960s

Child walking next to woman pushing baby carriage. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1230

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0001
No known title, 1950s-1960s

Woman with young boy under umbrella. Later print, resin-coated paper. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1242

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0002
No known title, 1950s-1960s

Woman with baby carriage. Later print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1293

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0003
No known title, 1950s-1960s

Man with sand on his bare back. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1538.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0004
No known title, 1950s-1960s

Taking in the sun. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1676.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0005
East Harlem, circa 1960

Girl in striped dress. Vintage print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1687.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0006
Lower East Side, 1957

Child in white ruffled dress. Title and photographer's signature on back. Later print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1928.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0007
East Harlem, 1953

Crowd of kids in front of window, little girl with straw. Vintage print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1930.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0008
No known title, 1950s-1960s

False leg in street. Vintage print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1933.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0009
Los Angeles, 1975

Piano in room with blackboard. Vintage print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1934.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0010
No known title, 1950s

Father and child lying on beach. Printed on thin black board. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2189.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0011
Lower East Side, 1956

Child in white ruffled dress. This is the same subject but different shot as previous image in collection, but is labeled on back with 1956 instead of 1957. Later print. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2419.

Box 1
Image RL.11358-P-0012
No known title, 1950s-1960s
(10 7/8 x 12 3/4 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Street scene in front of ethnic stores, New York City. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1222.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0013
No known title, 1970s?
(13 5/8 x 10 5/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man, seated, with Panama hat on knee, Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1217.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0014
No known title, 1970s?
(14 x 11 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man, standing, hand on chin, Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1263.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0015
No known title, 1960s?
(14 x 11 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man sitting on stoop, cup in hand, New York. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1317.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0016
No known title, 1960s-1970s
(11 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man lying on steps in street, New York. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1355.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0017
Lower East Side, circa 1953
(11 x 14 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man with cigarette in holder and woman with veil seen through window of car, New York. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1512.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0018
No known title, 1950s-1960s
(11 x 12 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Three women sitting in chairs on street, New York. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1513.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0019
No known title, 1967
(13 1/4 x 10 3/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Two men standing in front of concrete pier at beach, night, Coney Island? Mounted on black board. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2102.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0020
No known title, 1950s-1960s?
(14 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Men and women sitting in a row on park lawn. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1917.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0021
No known title, 1950s-1960s
(11 x 14 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Woman putting on eye makeup. Mounted on black board. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1424.

Box 2
Image RL.11358-P-0022
No known title, circa 1955
(10 x 13 5/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Older man and woman lying on the beach, Coney Island. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2408.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0023
No known title, undated
(11 x 14 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man standing with back to camera, looking at artwork on gallery walls. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2183.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0024
No known title, undated
(13 7/8 x 10 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man, with eyes closed, leaning against metal scaffold. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2153.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0025
No known title, 1960s-1970s
(13 1/2 x 10 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Woman with umbrella and two cigarettes walking on sidewalk, New York. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2263.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0026
No known title, undated
(10 3/4 x 9 1/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Older man in hat with striped band, Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2394.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0027
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 11 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man looking out of window of hut, Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2366.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0028
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 11 1/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man in straw hat pulling cart, Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1416.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0029
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Smiling man lying back in small cab, India. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC1527.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0030
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Young man, seated, preparing to have his portrait taken by street photographer, India. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2204.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0031
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man in suit, tie, and straw hat, holding book up, "Reveillons nous," Haiti? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2214.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0032
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 11 1/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Street barber shaving customer, India. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2362.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0033
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 10 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man in suit and tie, lifting hat while opening door, Mexico? Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2378.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0034
No known title, 1970s
(14 x 11 1/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Street dentist or doctor examining a squatting man's teeth, India. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2357.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0035
No known title, 1970s
(8 1/2 x 12 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Large group of men and women on board a boat, Haiti. Mounted on black board. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2126.

Box 3
Image RL.11358-P-0036
No known title, undated
(16 3/4 x 13 1/4 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Man in beret and hand behind his back, by the roadside. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2026.

Box 4
Image RL.11358-P-0037
No known title, undated
(8 1/2 x 12 7/8 inches, Gelatin silver print)

Blurry shot of polo match. Mounted on black board. Legacy id (assigned by collector): GDC2126.

Box 4
Image RL.11358-P-0038
 

Historical Note

Leon Levinstein (1910-1988) was an American photographer and graphic designer based in New York City. Born in West Virginia, he moved to New York to work in an advertising firm, and studied photography at the New School of Social Research and with the New York Photo League. Most of his time was spent walking the streets of New York City, taking candid shots of people and their surroundings. His work slowly gained wide recognition, and was featured in group shows at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Limelight Gallery, as well as in many major photography publications. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975.


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The Gary Davis collection of Leon Levinstein photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift from Gary Davis in 2016 and 2017.

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Paula Jeannet, January 2017 and February 2018.

Accession(s) represented in this finding aid: 2016-0322 and 2017-0202.