Award: Artist Research & Development Grant
Discipline: Visual Arts
Project Collaborator(s):

City/Town: Tucson
Year: 2018
Artist Website:

These photographs are evidence plucked from a distant periphery; moments found in daily-life anecdotes from the Southwest. Reminders, perhaps an admission to myself, that my father is dying. And they are a premonition of what that loss looks like.

Serge J-F. Levy has been making, writing about, and exhibiting street photography for over 20 years. His practice has largely involved working in urban centers throughout the United States, parts of Europe and Japan. For his latest project, supported in part by an Artist Research & Development Grant, Levy champions a new documentary-style approach to the family narrative that moves away from literal imagery to a lyrical and expressionistic style that draws on street photography as well as, landscape, and still life.

Levy describes the project, titled “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla,” as a “collection of hidden messages drawn from living 2,900 miles away from my father’s decline….Reminders, perhaps an admission to myself, that my father is dying.”

When documenting the loss of a loved one, photographers generally favor a traditional documentary-style approach. Being so geographically distant from his father, Levy has adapted his usual approach, trading literal images and logical structure for a more allusive, metaphorical style of picture-making. These images relate a nonlinear narrative and evoke the ambiguous ideas and emotions embedded in moments of daily life.

Photos from the project “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla,” a documentary-style photographic project that visually explores experiences of grief, angst, and at times wonder around living 2900 miles away from a dying parent. Through metaphorical imagery made in the home, on the road, and in the varied landscapes of Arizona, I expose a mixture of feelings of guilt, anxiety, and fear of loss that I am experiencing around my father’s rapidly declining health.

Serge J-F. Levy has exhibited his photography at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Phoenix Museum of Art, Schroeder Romero Gallery in Chelsea, and The Leica Gallery (New York City and Tokyo) among many other national and international solo and group exhibitions. In 2011 Princeton University Press published a book of Serge’s photographs made during his yearlong photography fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Serge’s magazine photography has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Life, ESPN The Magazine, Marie Claire, Stern, and The London Sunday Times Magazine among others.

In 2015, Serge was awarded Special Recognition for “The Fire in the Freezer” by the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize out of Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. A copy of the limited edition book was purchased by the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. He has also received awards from PDN, The Magenta Foundation, American Photo Magazine, Curate NYC, and The Photo Review.

Banner Photos: (Left) Photo from the project “2900 Miles and Other Jumping Cholla.” (Right) Artist headshot by Stephanie Burchett.