Through the Lens of a Rose Photojournalist

By Julia Van Develder

Sometimes, Serge J-F. Levy ’95 gets a little too personal. Photographing a Ku Klux Klan rally, he got close enough to get maced by a Klan member. "Knowing what too close is and what too far is–that’s part of the job," he says. "Too far, you don’t get the power of the image, and too close, you get clobbered."

Levy has already earned a reputation as an up-and-coming photojournalist and fine art photographer. In 2000, he was one of two young artists to receive Vassar’s Rose Fellowship for the Creative Arts. (The other was writer Mary Beth Caschetta ’88.) Photographs that he took on assignment have appeared in virtually every major newspaper in the U.S., including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Work he has done for himself has been published in Mother Jones, Life, and Sports Illustrated magazines, as well as in the magazine section of the Independent, one of Britain’s top newpapers. The Museum of the City of New York has several of his photographs in its collection, as does Henry Buhl, a well known collector in SoHo whose private collection includes everything from Alfred Stieglitz’s portrait of Georgia O’Keeffe’s hands to Levy’s photograph of Christian punk rockers’ hands clasped in prayer.

Levy, who studied sociology at Vassar, likes serious and often difficult subjects. And he embraces subjectivity. "I’m a human being with emotions and thoughts and political leanings . . . I think that one of my strengths as a photojournalist is my ability to infuse a subjective viewpoint into what I’m doing. When I see something that is interesting, I try to figure out why the situation is so compelling."

On these pages, Levy’s view of the streets of Seattle, Washington, during the meeting of the World Trade Organization there in 1999.