Updated: Jun 9, 2020
Ed Lefkowicz specializes in not only photographing artisans, but in redefining the term itself. While Lefkowicz does photograph artisans in the traditional sense, such as craftsmen and bakers, his talent lies in his ability to expose the artisanship in every occupation that requires building something from scratch, whether it be a brick & mortar business, a restaurant, a political movement, or a family.
“Good art has to be engaging. It has to draw you in, and once it draws you in, it has to hold you”
Lefkowicz is skilled at identifying and capturing the “magic,” as he calls it, in the quiet human moments that occur as people go about their daily work. Lefkowicz's fascination with the magic of photography began when he was just a kid, helping his father develop film in the darkroom. "I just got interested in people who make things by hand early on; my granddad did, my dad did, and by extension, I did," recounted Lefkowicz.
As a student in Massachusetts, Lefkowicz explored his interests through various part-time jobs, working part-time at a Leica store and at a rare book shop; both interests evolved into careers. “I bought film in bulk, 100 foot rolls, rolled them in cassettes myself and developed them myself, but it was what I had to do because I was a student,” Lefkowicz recalled.
As Lefkowicz forged a path for himself in the rare book industry, he also allocated more financial resources and time to photography. His specialties in the rare book industry world were American and military history, and it quickly became clear that just as rare texts allowed him to preserve history in the publishing world, photography could also allow him to preserve history through images. With practice and passion, what began as a hobby transformed into Lefkowicz’s career.
Lefkowicz’s artistic focus has always been centered on capturing “real people doing real things.” His stylistically original and quietly powerful work is especially refreshing when so much of contemporary photography is focused on attention-grabbing rather than attention-holding. “If you look at most Instagram feeds, it looks like people are only trying to outdo one another, and that has never been engaging to me,” Lefkowicz commented.
Lefkowicz’s rare ability to adapt to contemporary content needs while maintaining the quiet creativity, authenticity, and old-school charm of his work has created a demand for his photography in the commercial and corporate worlds especially. Lefkowicz elaborated that while many amateurs can capture amazing photographs in certain conditions, the hallmark of a professional photographer is being able to dependably capture amazing photographs regardless of the circumstances.
“Sometimes, I will walk into a corporate space, and I think, ‘please do not have me take photos in this room,’ but the reality is that a photographer has to hone their ability to work in any environment,”
Lefkowicz enjoys the challenge of creating the conditions necessary to capture a great photo and the thrill of needing to click the shutter at the exact, right moment. Lefkowicz began his career working as a film photographer, which required him to identify the perfect shot without the luxury of the continuous shooting options on contemporary digital cameras.
“I have had secretaries tell me I have five minutes to get the CEO’s picture.”
In addition to impeccable timing, Lefkowicz’s experience allows him to approach every shoot with the adaptability and confidence that only years of experience can provide. When clients are concerned about being photogenic, Lefkowicz tells them that making them look good is his problem.
“It is not their job to look good, it's my job to make sure they look good,”
Lefkowicz said, and he has consistently delivered on that promise for over twenty years.
Lefkowicz understands camera shyness on a personal level, admitting that “this all started as a shyness, hiding behind the camera was easier.” Ironically, the talent Lefkowicz cultivated because of his camera shyness is what has allowed so many people to be and feel seen.
During the COVID-19 shelter in place, Lefkowicz has been focusing his creative energy on building his social media and online presences. Despite his slight aversion to social media, Lefkowicz recognizes that his work represents an inspiring authenticity that he feels artistically obligated to share with others.
Reflecting on the immediate future of photography in a post-pandemic world, Lefkowicz looks forward to working with commercial clients to help stimulate sales and rebuild their brands. Many photographers with Lefkowicz’s dedication to authenticity struggle with corporate work since its focus is ultimately in creating revenue rather than art, but where some artists struggle, Lefkowicz thrives. Lefkowicz’s talent is not just in capturing artisanship, but in helping people and businesses expose and pursue the artisans within themselves.
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