David Levinthal has produced a diverse oeuvre, utilizing primarily large-format Polaroid photography. His works touch upon many aspects of American culture, from Barbie to baseball to X-rated dolls. Levinthal uses small toys and props with dramatic lighting to construct mini environments of subject matters varying from war scenes to voyeurism to racial and political references to American pop culture.
Levinthal creates miniature scenarios using shoeboxes, cardboard, and foam core to make miniature offices, hotel rooms, pool halls, foyers and narrow corridors. These shadowy and dark scenes expose the secrecy and intimacy of small spaces. Levinthal is particularly interested in exploring the different emotions that each scene produces, such as reactions to an office corridor in contrast to those to a hospital or a private bedroom. Indeed, there is an inherently voyeuristic aspect to these early works.
Most of Levinthal’s series stem from his experiences as a child with popular culture. His early encounters with his family’s color television in contrast with daily reality have also marked his work. The subjects of Levinthal’s work, the toys and dolls themselves, are often confused with real live people, causing his audience to question the ambiguity found in this dialectic between artificiality and reality.
With the use of skilled photography, Levinthal animates his small toys, sometimes to the point of artificially created movement. On his toy use, Levinthal said that “Toys are intriguing, and I want to see what I can do with them. On a deeper level, they represent one way that society socializes its young.”Furthermore, Levinthal is aware of the power of toys: “Ever since I began working with toys, I have been intrigued with the idea that these seemingly benign objects could take on such incredible power and personality simply by the way they were photographed. I began to realize that by carefully selecting the depth of field and making it narrow, I could create a sense of movement and reality that was in fact not there.