PHOTOGRAPHER/COLLECTOR DAVID LEVINTHAL: TOYS 'R' ART

By (TK) Published on .

Fine-art photographer David Levinthal, who is probably best known for his 1977 book Hitler Moves East -- a "graphic chronicle" of WWII consisting entirely of documentary-style photographs of toys -- has expanded his playroom to the ad world of late. In his first commercial foray since a 1989 Wild West-themed "Absolut Levinthal," he's shot toy-based ads in his signature 20x24 Polaroid style for Novell and the Automobile Club of Great Britain, and now he's working on a book for jewelers H. Stern, as well as an IBM campaign for Ogilvy & Mather.

"I've gained a certain appreciation for people who do this," Levinthal says of ad photography. "It's a very demanding way of working."

But Levinthal, 50, hasn't been slouching on the art side either. Last year saw his photographic paean to Barbie as a '60s fashion model (seen here), in a book from Pantheon, and next month marks the release of Blackface, from Arena Publishing -- 90 photographs of more than a century's worth of black memorabilia, most of which he collected himself. These grinning Sambos and Jemimas are sure to raise a racial ruckus, but "my hope is that it's more thought-provoking than controversial," he says. "The object is to look at these things and perceive their monumentality. Photographed on the 20x24 camera, you completely lose their sense of scale. It forces the viewer to really confront these objects. It's almost a social history; it mirrors the changes in our

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