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Parting Shot: Laura Levine 

click to enlarge Laura Levine, Richard and Linda Thompson (NYC, 1982), gelatin-silver print
  • Laura Levine, Richard and Linda Thompson (NYC, 1982), gelatin-silver print

Photographer-painter-director-illustrator Laura Levine is an artist who knows how to move with the medium. During her days as a freelance photographer for the Village Voice, Levine took the above picture of British rock duo Richard and Linda Thompson, who were then on tour promoting their sixth and final album, Shoot Out the Lights, in 1982. “They were very friendly and courteous to me, but it was apparent that something was going on,” says Levine about the hour-long, two-roll session, during which (as she later learned) they were in the midst of a painful divorce. “Sometimes when I shoot a photograph, I’m very aware of the composition, or a specific prop or setting, but in this case—although I’m sure I must have suggested placing the guitar in the frame and sitting them on the sofa—the only thing I see when I look at this image is the intensity of the emotion and the dynamic between the two of them. All of the other elements seem to fade away.”

The shoot, as Levine recalls, was particularly intense, and the photograph it produced (itself unique for a “portrait”) provocatively walks the tightrope between artistry and technique. “In some ways, I suppose you could technically call this a ‘bad’ photograph, in that her eyes are closed,” Levine concedes, “but this is one of those cases where I feel the intimacy and the emotion of the moment transcend any technical considerations.” Although it has been several years since Levine has dedicated herself exclusively to the kind of photography exemplified in this particular shot, she still finds herself looking at things from a photographer’s perspective—“Once a photographer, always a photographer,” she says.

This image will be among several dozen of Levine’s photographs on view this month at “Backstage Pass: Rock & Roll Photography” at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine. The exhibition, drawn from the largest private collection of photographs of rock musicians in the country, opens on January 22 and runs through March 22. Additionally, Levine contributed an essay to the accompanying exhibition catalogue, to be published by Yale University Press, and her work will be included in an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum in October, entitled “Who Shot Rock: Photographers of Rock and Roll.” Portfolio: www.lauralevine.com.

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  • A photograph of Richard and Linda Thompson from 1982

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