Cover Article on Photographer Michael Levin



I was commissioned to write a feature article on the photographer Michael Levin for SubTerrain, an independent literary magazine focused on cultural concerns. Instead of a standard artist’s profile, stuffy in a studio, I opted to accompany Michael on a photo trek to Port Townsend, the small coastal town in Washington State where he captured a number of his key early compositions that began to make his name in the competitive world of fine art photography. That overnight trip was a life-changer. By getting to see close-up how Levin works – his compositional choices, his hustle and patience – allowed for a more insightful awareness of the deeper meaning and value in his work. Plus we ate greasy delicious fish n chips, took two spellbinding ferry rides and my story of that journey made the cover of the magazine. A great trip through Michael’s backroads of curiousity. 

 “Travelling from Canada, the quickest way to reach Port Townsend is the ferry from Whidbey Island. Otherwise you must go down through the snarl of traffic in Seattle and then back up to the floating bridge over the Hood Canal. Michael made the longer journey several times before realising a shorter route existed. But now we are looking for a shortcut through the shortcut, a backroad beeline to the ferry terminal at Keystone. We are trying to get ahead of the weather and Michael is sensitive to the waning light

– Barry Dumka  



Cover Article on Photographer Michael Levin

There is no noticeable change to the sky as we cross the border. America begins to roll out ahead of us under the same blue light we left behind in Canada – or are trying to leave behind if the American border guard will let us through. The guard’s questions become more pointed. A yellow sticker is attached to the windshield. We are told to wait in the main office until a second agent can interrogate us further. All of these sharp inquiries aren’t prompted by a found stash of B.C. bud or a well-thumbed copy of the Koran – two potential threats to a nation at war on multiple fronts. Rather, it’s a Hasseblad camera in the back seat that glints in the slick glasses of our border guard. Though we’re coming to America simply to view the old posts, weathered pilings and common objects in Port Townsend, Washington – not airport terminals or subway stations or other “target” sites – still we might see too much. Seeing things can now be an act of subversion. Despite his designation as International Photographer of the Year, Michael Levin is under suspicion.


Once we’ve explained our way through Customs, Michael picks up the pace, chasing the fading light. Whenever he travels, he carries charts on sunsets and tide levels – so many hard calculations about fleeting moments. Summer is at a high pitch but when we get out of the car at Deception Pass, it’s cool and damp between the trees and there is a heaviness in the air. A big load of clouds thud across the sky and a brisk wind filled with moisture squalls in off the water. A rare midsummer’s fog will move in later but Michael already has a taste for it. The promise of a good night shoot pricks his skin.


— (end of excerpt)



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