Photochat: Levi Mandel
Who are you?
How long have you been taking photos for?
15 years, more or less.
What equipment do you use?
I tend to float between cameras depending on the project. For the past few years I’ve been shooting 4×5 black and white negatives of my friends nude on their rooftops here in Brooklyn. The series is called Reasons for Living and I’m shooting it on a Wista 4×5 field camera. On my weekend wilderness road trips I like to shoot on a Mamiya 7, and for everything else I’m mostly shooting on a Yashica 35mm point and shoot. I also just bought a nice lens for my Nikon DSLR which I’m excited to start playing with.
What made you start shooting?
I don’t recall any specific moment when I started shooting. As far as I can remember, it was kind of a natural presence in my life. I remember going away for summer camps as a kid and obsessively shooting photographs of my friends, the city, my room. I would bring back dozens of rolls of film and anxiously wait for them to be processed and printed at Costco.
What influences you?
As cliche as it sounds, I’m greatly influenced by work I see from strangers online. I can spend hours browsing Flickr. There’s just so much talent oozing from all kinds of random cities and places. Locally, I’m inspired by spending time with positive friends. Many of them are artists and just making such wonderful things. Because I go to art school, a lot of people I know are not only making photographs, but painting or making sculptures. I think this is really important because I’m exposed to new mediums and ways of working, and also get fresh critical perspectives from my own work outside of the photography department.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve ever taken and why?
It’s hard for me to choose a favorite photo. Perhaps, at the moment, it’s Charles, which I shot last year. Visually I find the photo very intriguing, but more personally it’s an image of my grandfather’s funeral, specifically books being dumped over his coffin before the dirt. I won’t get into the specifics as to why it is important to me.
What are your ambitions for the future?
To become immortal and then die.
I’ve got a new book out called Rubies, you can pick it up through my website.