|Dates: ||1832 - 1906|
|Active: ||Great Britain / Belgium|
Born in London to a Jewish family with extensive international business interests, Levi was educated primarily in Belgium. Much of his personal fortune came from his invention of phosphor bronze, a corrosion-resistant bronze used in manufacturing. Levi was elected a member of the Photographic Society in London in May 1853 and later that year exhibited his new rapid-acting shutter, this at a time when a top hat usually served that purpose. When Levi began in photography is not known, but his earliest surviving photographs, taken in 1854, were salt prints from paper negatives documenting the hydraulic machine he had invented for bringing fresh water to Brussels. That same year he adapted an invention by a Liège daguerreotypist to fashion a device for taking a series of waxed-paper negatives; it allowed him to shoot from ten to fifteen paper negatives in succession without opening the camera. In 1857 Levi wrote to the Journal of the Photographic Society from Piedmont describing, and illustrating, a tent he had devised for processing collodion negatives in the field. He exhibited only once, a group of collodion views submitted to the 1858 exhibition of the Photographic Society in London. Later moving to Belgium, he was elected president of the Association Belge de Photographie in 1877 and became a naturalized Belgian citizen five years later. President of the International Monetary Conference in 1892, Levi endowed the Montefiore Institute, one of the first electrical engineering schools in the world, now part of the University of Liège.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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