Essence of Being
I try to experience life, the spiritual as well as the mundane, on many levels. In nature there is the excitement that comes from feeling at one with creation. In the city I tune myself to people and the manmade rhythms of life. The harmonizing atmosphere I find at sacred places creates a bridge between the two. What I feel, see, and hear somehow come together in the multidimensional world. I glimpse the "essence of being".
The many activities of everyday living keep me busy. When I pay attention I know who and what I am. When I really look at life, I am able to see a bigger world and enjoy my role in it. In these moments I feel the "essence of being". Through the magic of it all I experience the fun as well as the seriousness of life.
As a photographer it is necessary to be very aware of one's surroundings. Looking for images keeps me focused; the resulting photographs help me to remember.
Edward Levinson (updated Oct. 2002)
In the troubled world in which we live there is a need for beauty and for images that are soothing to the mind and spirit. "Healing Landscapes" is an ongoing project in which I am striving to make images that open the heart of the viewer.
I have found that a lensless pinhole camera best captures the essence of nature as I experience it. The pinhole camera captures things on film that I sense are there but cannot necessarily see. The soft, "time altered" scenes created by the pinhole camera's long exposures invoke a sense of sacredness and nostalgia. This is a vision of a peaceful and beautiful world that deep inside ourselves we know exists. ?I believe each person has inner landscapes representing various aspects of their being and hope that my photographs serve as stepping stones into these. Discovering these inner landscapes brings place of mind.
Whether through searching or by "accident", landscapes that heal constantly find their way into my life and cameras. For me it is a joy to be out in the field, in the heart of nature. Whether experiencing the quiet of dawn or the winds of the storm, I feel at home. The rhythms of nature tune my soul and allow me to be in harmony with it. It is then that I find the images that awaken my emotions and feelings. The appeal of nature is universal and knows no boundaries. I hope these images contribute to the realization of a whole, healthy, and happy world.
Edward Levinson (1995)
Cities are busy places where people watching can be fascinating. In nature I feel the emotions of the universe. In the city, it is the emotions of humanity that move me.
City culture and entertainment are exciting. However, coming from the countryside where I live, the senses become overwhelmed. Can people maintain their sense of self in this circus-like atmosphere? How do they avoid being swallowed up in the flow of city time? Where is the balance found?
Photographing in the city with my pinhole cameras is an extension of my interest in people watching and photojournalism. With it's silent shutter and lack of viewfinder "technique", the pinhole camera lets me photograph in an unobtrusive way.The long exposures allow me to observe the people and places as they interact with the flow of time. I somehow slip into their space and share their experience.
In the pinhole images "society" often appears faceless. People are "there" but they are not "there". How many are actually "awake" and conscious of the moment? How many prefer to block out the here and now and disappear into their own worlds? The hard lines of the buildings stand in stark contrast to the soft humans and warm light. Parks offer an oasis in what some feel is a desert. Open skies provide light through the cracks in the concrete jungle. But it is the flow of people, their ideas, and energy that gives the cities their magnetism.
Edward Levinson (Nov. 1997)
Sacred Japan - Myth or Reality?
Having lived in Japan for 23 years, I often ask myself how can I capture the spiritual side of it with a camera. What are the relationships between nature, tradition, religion, and modern Japan? I have always been fascinated with the mood and energy I feel at temples, shrines, houses, fields, and other sacred places. I believe it is their openness and closeness to nature that excites my spirit. Sometimes it is a visual attraction. Sometimes it is the smell and sounds. These photographs are a personal journey to refresh my spiritual vision of Japan. However, these photographs are not just a record of various places visited or discovered. They reflect back to me how I felt on being there. As I observe and participate in meditation, prayers, and festivals the experience is filtered through my my mind's eye. At the same time I try to understand what it is that the Japanese feel, believe, and experience. I begin to understand the Japanese attitude of resignation and submission to one's destiny. Perhaps the blurred image of the pinhole mirrors the Japanese's blurred vision of themselves. Thus it seems an appropriate way to focus on the myths and realties of Japanese spiritual traditions. With the pinhole camera's long exposures the results are often left to chance or fate. The world as captured by it often appears fantasy like. The pinhole camera has a subtle way of blending the Japanese spiritual myths and realities that I experience.
Edward Levinson (1996-2002
Europe Deja vu
Europe has always drawn people with its romanticism and feelings of nostalgia. Now it is entering a new era. Walls between east and west are gone. Some countries are breaking apart, yet Europe as a whole is joining together. During these exciting times, people from around the world continue to flock there to see if the "old ways" and "old things" still exist. Living in Japan for nearly 20 years I always find it a breath of fresh air to get out and visit "Western" countries for a change. For culture and atmosphere I choose Europe. On my most recent trip I had the opportunity to visit for the first time several "Eastern European" countries from which my ancestors came. Naturally, one is drawn toward the energy of the great cities, sites, and people. The countryside, which touches my heart with its salt of the earth beauty, is the subject for another series of photographs. When I journey around in Europe there is a sense of awe at the "oldness" of things. In Eastern Europe in particular there is a sense of deja vu, of coming home. To see the older ladies in the market is to look into the face of my eternal grandmother. The man behind the counter may be my long lost "uncle"; the peddler on the street my brother. I people watch at the tourist spots and walk the back streets in search of hanging laundry and playing children. I reward myself with a stop at a cafe and let the strong coffee percolate my subconscious memories. Memories become photographs. Photographs become memories.
Edward Levinson (January,1999)
Infinite Waters(Suiten Mugen)
My home in the mountains is ten kilometers inland yet I can "hear" the sea. The clouds flowing across the sky direct my thoughts toward the coast. Eyeing the light, I hop in the always-loaded van, and head for one of my favorite points.
Down at the beach watching the flow of the waves, the rhythmic movements stir up images. How many times have I been here? How familiar, yet how new and fresh it is. How to capture the feeling of the moment, the light of the season, the breath of the wind. Thoughts go through my mind as I "prepare" to make pinhole photos of the sea.
I say go through the mind but it is partly unconscious. It is a feeling or intuition, combined with memories of inner landscapes. The desire to share the experience with others encourages me to get out the camera.
And why the pinhole camera instead of another device? I don't really see this world in fractions of a second as modern cameras do. Taking in a scene with all the senses, with the heart and mind, for 15 seconds, a minute, or an hour is for me a contemplation of life itself. When I view the ocean in all its vastness, it is recorded in my memory. On the edge of a rice paddy, deep in the woods by a forest stream, in front of a sparkling waterfall, looking up with an uncluttered view of the sky, these all provoke the same response. As a tool, the pinhole camera helps me to express what I feel in those intimate moments in nature. The eye is the aperture; the image is imprinted on my light sensitive inner being. "Satori" enlightenment may come in an instant, but it is the culmination of something accrued over time. The pinhole camera becomes the witness to my ongoing journey. Together the camera and I observe, preserve, and take the scene home with us.
Edward Levinson (2001)
I have been aware of the rhythms that move the world since I was a teenager. I remember the first time I laid on my back in a field, watched the clouds floating by overhead and felt at one with the universe. It seemed such a simple thing to experience. I wonder why it is so easy to forget that feeling in the rush of everyday life.
My days are made up of comings and goings. The sun rises and brightens the day. It follows nature's course and I often shape my activities around its movements. I watch the light and chase the shadows. I watch them both plays tricks as they move about like a dancing butterfly, a lazy dog, or horse on the run.
Shadows Talk is a series of work that by its very nature is on going. The light is seen in all its shapes; the shadows talk in many voices. Observing the interaction of these two forces I see parallels between new and old, past and present, the seen and unseen. For me pinhole photography creates a thread between these two worlds. It is a search for balance where light and dark come together in a natural way.
Certain scenes invoke my past, some reach further back to my ancestral roots. Others help me to imagine the future. Most however excite me because they are unique moments in the here and now. Partly they are special because they are personal and a record of my life. Yet I believe they also have meaning for others.
We all share certain similar memories, feelings of nostalgia, and a sense of deja vu. It may be a sunlit landscape, a crowded street, a sacred place, or a symbolic still life that moves us. It matters not which as long as we see, receive something, and continue on our journey.
Edward Levinson (2002)
Watching and Waiting
Every year is always busy. It may be traveling for a photographic project, preparing for exhibitions, working on a book, or as in this past year building a new house and studio. Sometimes it is just the routine and pressures of ordinary life that keep me busier than I would like. Days go by where I think I didn't do anything creative. But the one thing I can do even when I am too busy or uninspired to make photographs is to just keep my eyes open to the world around me. If I pay attention, eventually I "see" something. It may not mean anything to others but it has meaning to me.
Americans have the expression "keep on trucking" meaning to continue going down the road. A pinhole friend who is fighting cancer perseveres with the thought "keep on pinholing". My hope is that I no matter what, I "keep on looking". On a stroll through glittering Ginza or weather beaten old Tokyo ("shita machi"), in the countryside or wherever I happen to be, I watch and wait for a photographic moment.
Edward Levinson (2004)
Silhouette Stories (shadow series)
"Beyond the Picture" Every photographer is fascinated by light, shadows, shapes, and forms. Most are also interested in the story behind the picture, the story the picture tells. In this series of work I am looking beyond what seems “real” to see another world. It is a make believe world that comes to life through the playful interaction of still life objects. Figures, flowers, glass, and water enter the stage. The “spot” light illuminates them. My show exists only as long as that day’s set, that morning’s light , and the inspiration of the director and “actors”. In the silhouette series, the actors find a safe atmosphere behind a screen to reveal themselves. Through the drama created I see the inner qualities central to life in the real world. Joy, peace, beauty, reverence, humor, freedom, and love.
Edward Levinson (2006)
"Fears and Hopes" (diorama series)
I know the world is far from perfect. As an artist and photographer I have mostly thought, until recently, that I should concentrate on the positive rather than the negative. However, when I started my previous "Cityscapes" series, I found that documentary statements about society began to appear in my photos whether I was looking for them or not. Later looking at photographs I had taken at Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland I found myself wondering how I could ever us these photos. I could feel the stories that occurred there but found it hard to visualize them. I found that creating dioramas with the photos and various dolls and objects somehow brought some meaning to the scenes for me. Wars and holocausts bring with them fears and heartbreak. Religious icons, regardless of denomination represent hope. As a saving grace, nature provides a universal place of solace, freedom, and gratitude. Edward Levinson 2002-2006
I have been using pinhole photography for artistic expression since 1993. The “Mind Games” series began in 2005 and is my first major pinhole work in color.
When I first started using the three-hole “Pinhole Blender” camera it felt like a good tool for creating stories. Usually I search for three scenes or objects that seem to go together. I look for humor, irony, and social statements when combining the three images into one photograph. Sometimes the center image is strong enough to stand on its own; the side-images are used isolate the subject from its normal environment and to draw the viewer into the power spot in the center.
The camera is a simple round can with a diameter of 18cm (7 inches). There is no viewfinder. On a panoramic strip of film 6 x 12 cm (2.5 x 7inch) long, three different pinhole images are combined into one image in a purely analog process. The resulting collage of three overlapping images is thus created in the camera, not on a computer. After capture, I have the medium format 120-size color negative film developed by a lab. Then, I personally scan the negatives into the computer, do the color processing as necessary, and output as archival ink jet prints.
Edward Levinson 2011-2102