by Andy Lyons, Editor-in-Chief
People tend to dream of a glamorous career at a young age. Most, however, give up on that dream as they enter adulthood for one reason or another. For photographer Samantha Levi, she began her craft in childhood and made it a career.
Levi, a University of Central Missouri alumna, will be back in Warrensburg, Mo. with her photography featured at the Gann Gallery for the month of May.
Levi said her love of photography started as a 7-year-old when her aunt taught her how to use an Olympus OM-1 35mm camera.
“I gained experience doing photography in 4-H for 12 years,” she said. “My first darkroom photography class was seventh grade, which is where my true love and appreciation for analog began,” she said. “In high school I had amazing art teachers that entered me in contests and pushed my creativity and it wasn’t till start of senior year in high school that I was like, ‘hey I could actually do this professionally.’
“From there it just grew into this overwhelming passion. I was recruited to UCM on a high jump scholarship and coincidently they had a photography program. My technical knowledge took off and so did the drive to really make a name for myself in the industry. It’s funny though because I feel like I’ve always been a photographer ever since I can remember.”
Levi has done photography work for corporations but explained there’s a huge difference in what she does professionally versus her style personally.
“My advertising work is different because it’s for a particular brand or client with creative direction and pre-determined concepts,” she said. “In turn, I am executing their vision and producing final images under the client’s guidelines.
“My personal work may or may not start with an idea but there are no concrete concepts or shot lists I must capture,” she continued. “There is no creative direction, no client that is making the final image choice. I am free to float about and capture as I please while still holding true to the details and art direction I see within each image. I also choose to shoot a lot of film for my personal work. I appreciate the art of photography and for me that art is the process of film. Digital is great and I love it. But so much is lost along the way. With film, you get one shot.”
Levi enjoys imagery on a very deep level. She describes herself as a visual colonialist on her website, and elaborated to CMN what she means by that.
“I see myself as someone who is visually taken over by an overwhelming passion for people – their faces, their unique individual style, their vibe, etc.,” she explained. “Details about ourselves and those around us that we find interesting and intriguing, that tells a little story about that person, that moment. I am forever consumed by visual stimulation that allows for me to be constantly inspired.”
Music and fashion are two subjects Levi said she is interested in, and is reflected in her photography. She also looks deeper, trying to capture “real” moments when she’s behind the lens.
“Everything for me is based on a feeling, a mood, a tone set,” she said. “It’s all about the vibe I set, they set, the location sets, you know? So much plays a part in an image and every variable counts. I can sense when the images are coming out fake. I can see it in my subject’s eyes. They have to tell a story somehow some way.
“Real, is about finding those rare raw moments in between shots that are least expected.”
Levi said when she is curating her show she thinks about whether or not she would hang each image in her own house and that determines whether or not it gets a place in the show. She explained she takes a lot of images, but she differentiates between images for books, images for social media posts, images for the wall – each with its own place and purpose. Her favorite image in the show is one of a legendary fashion icon.
For her showing at the Gann Gallery, Levi will be showing a continuation of a previous exhibit she did during a trip to Paris Fashion Week Spring Season 2015. The collection in 2016 contained seven images. The opening in Warrensburg will showcase more images that show a variety of fashion details, runway, behind the scenes and in between. It has evolved into a 20-piece collection and will feature a variety of digital, 35mm and Polaroid photos.
Levi’s exhibit opens Friday May 5 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Gann Gallery, 111 N. Holden St. in Warrensburg. An event for her exhibit opening can be found on Facebook here. For more, visit her website here.