A new student-curated exhibit, The Photographs of Builder Levy: Humanity in the Streets, depicting the changing physical, political and social landscape of Brooklyn, opens at Brooklyn Historical Society on Friday, April 26, and will be on view through August 11.

Students from Pratt Institute’s Spring 2019 Museology Class served as curators, designers and publicists to bring the exhibition to life, which captures the essence of everyday New Yorkers from the 1960s to 1980s through the lens of Brooklyn photographer Builder Levy. From fighting for civil rights to socializing on the street, the images on view “reveal an intimate connection between subject, streetscape and photographer, while chronicling the ways political and social events have played out for the borough’s multicultural communities,” BHS stated.

Photo credit: Builder Levy, courtesy Brooklyn Historical Society

“We are extraordinarily proud of all of the students who worked to make this project a reality,” said John Decker, chair of Pratt Institute’s History of Art and Design Department. “This type of hands-on, applied experience and engagement is part of what makes a Pratt education so beneficial.”

Growing up in Brooklyn during the Cold War and McCarthy era, Builder Levy’s family encouraged art and believed in a world without war and hate, racism, sexism, exploitation and poverty, laying the foundation for his later career. In 1964,  Levy received his B.A. in art from Brooklyn College, followed by a Master’s Degree in art education from NYU in 1966.

Over the years, photography has allowed Levy to visually capture the emotional and ideological experiences in which he was a partisan participant, BHS stated. He has shown his work in more than 250 exhibitions and his photographs are in more than 80 collections throughout New York and in Europe. The students particularly selected photos for the exhibit that give viewers a sense of the breadth of Levy’s interests in political activism and street life, largely in Brooklyn neighborhoods.

The Photographs of Builder Levy: Humanity in the Streets is a unique collaboration between BHS and Pratt Institute which allowed the students to utilize skills such as archival research and writing, exhibition and website design, the production of documentary film and educational programming.

Brooklyn Photographer Builder Levy. Photo credit: builderlevy.com

“Brooklyn Historical Society is honored to provide local students an opportunity to apply their classroom lessons in the real world,” said BHS President Deborah Schwartz. “This collaboration exemplifies our commitment to community outreach and education while nurturing the upcoming generation of cultural curators and producers.”

In connection with the exhibition, BHS is hosting Photography through a Civic Lens: Builder Levy and Brian Palmer in Conversation with Bonnie Yochelson on Thursday, May 2The program welcomes Levy and visual journalist Brian Palmer for a conversation, moderated by photo-historian and curator Bonnie Yochelson. For more information and tickets, go here.

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Andrea Leonhardt

“Made in Germany,” Andrea Leonhardt is the managing editor for BK Reader. Andrea holds a bachelor’s degree in political science, with minors in American studies and education, and a master’s...

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