David Lavine is behind the lens

David Lavine
David Lavine (Haydee M. Rodriguez)

For David Lavine, 76, photography is not just about conveying emotions beyond a photograph. Rather, he shared, the process of taking a photograph entails taking a rational approach, as well as expressing a feeling.

“In photography, you make a lot of decisions,” Lavine said. “From where you stand to take a photograph, to which lens you choose, which settings, even what kind of camera. It isn’t just about picking up a camera and taking a snapshot.”

Lavine has taught photography at Anne Arundel Community College since 1991. Influenced by M. Richard Kirstel — one of his professors at MICA, the Maryland Institute College of Art, who died in 2007 — Lavine shared that he wants students to come away with the desire to approach photography in the same manner as thinking through a problem.

Lavine lives in north Baltimore City with his wife, Nancy Benjamin, and their recently adopted cat, Brownie.

His work, Lavine said, covers three major periods in his life – “On the Street,” a series of photographs he took for his master’s thesis in black and white; “An Other Place” another series he took in 2005, taking photographs of graffiti throughout Baltimore; and, more recently, a series he calls “Fauna,” photographs of plastic toys placed outside, which, Lavine said, conveys the increasing displacement of nature by plastic.

Lavine’s maternal grand-parents arrived in Toronto, Canada, from Ukraine around 1900, as did his paternal grandparents, who arrived from Latvia at around the same time. In search of a better job, his father moved to Wilmington, Del., Lavine’s birthplace.

As a child, Lavine attended Hebrew School and had his bar mitzvah in 1958 and was later confirmed at Temple Beth Shalom, a Conservative congregation in Wilmington. At 11 years old, Lavine recalled, he became interested in the Boy Scouts and joined a troop that was run out of Beth Emeth Congregation. Lavine was not close to his father, who worked long hours, and remembers the scout leader, Art Scher, as a great role model.

Lavine graduated with a B.A. in history from the University of Delaware in 1967.

He subsequently joined the Naval Officer Candidate School, serving as a gunnery officer on the USS Charles P. Cecil in the Indian Ocean from 1968 through 1970 and, upon his completion of service, graduated from MICA with an M.F.A. in photography.

From 1978 through 1989, Lavine worked as a freelance photographer doing mostly industrial and public relations work, becoming, he remarked, tired of deadlines. He subsequently worked as a field representative for the U.S. Census Bureau, interviewing households for monthly government surveys, from 1990-2020.

“This was my full-time job, from which I retired,” Lavine said. “It allowed me enough flexibility to pursue my interests in teaching and making my own pictures on the side. Much of the Census work was evenings and weekends when people were at home.”

The hours of the job allowed him the freedom to pursue his passion, which led him to become an adjunct lecturer in photography at Anne Arundel Community College, from 1991 to the present.

On why he likes teaching photography, Lavine said, “You get to work with students individually in a studio environment making a picture. So, you get to know each other. It’s not nearly as impersonal as straight lecture courses I had as an undergraduate.”

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