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French photographer Isabelle Levy-Lehmann originally wanted to be a lawyer, but eventually found that she could help the human condition with her camera better than in a courtroom.
Levy-Lehman spent the month of November walking the streets of Wilson as the artist-in-residence for the Eyes on Main Street Outdoor Photo Festival.
As a 16-year-old, the Belfort, France native took a job at a Honeywell computer plant and used the money to buy her first Nikon camera.
Driven in part by a family of attorneys, Levy-Lehman studied law at the Faculté de Droit à Strasbourg but soon went back to her old love of photography
She moved to Paris in 1994 and studied with prominent photographers Claudine and Jean-Pierre Sudre and portraitist Horst Tappe.
Levy-Lehmann completed an intense photography internship with the Ecole Nationale Superieure Louis Lumiere and became a proficient darkroom printer.
In 1996, the newspaper Liberation published a four-page spread of Levy-Lehmann’s photographs,which led to work from prominent French news and cultural magazines including Telerama and LePointas well as other newspapers and some corporate work.
Levy-Lehman’s focus throughout her career has been portraits.
“I like to meet people,” Levy-Lehmann said.
Levy-Lehmann tries to find out as much as she can about a subject before composing his or her picture.
“I want to know the most that I can about a person,” Levy-Lehmann said. “If it is a writer, I want to read their book. If it is a singer, I want to hear their music. I try to find the nature of a person.”
Levy-Lehman captured many portraits here in Wilson, but she also made studies of buildings in the city.
When she was young, she wanted to be an architect, which is part of her fascination with buildings.
Another reason she was fascinated with photography is that as a 2-year old, her biological father died in a car crash. The only memories of him came through photographs. Similarly, photographs were all that remained of her grandfather, who died in the Holocaust in World War II.
“When I walk, I walk like a poet. I try to observe,” Levy-Lehmann said. “Each day surprised me.”
The photographer said people were very approachable and willing to be in front of her camera.
“They are interested when I tell them I am from Paris,” Levy-Lehmann said. “In Wilson, people here are natural. For me, it is very nice to be able to meet people. They are simple and real. Life here is natural and not complicated. People have been fantastic in Wilson. I am very lucky.”
“I use light to build my story. I just work like a poet every day,” Levy-Lehmann said. “My eyes are looking at everything.”