With years of boundary-pushing portrait photography under her belt, Danielle Levitt is all about highlighting the beautiful differences in all types of people, from youth cultures to the fashion scene to the big stars we all recognize. Now, Levitt is using her iconic style to photograph the faces of PRIDE for W Hotels’ Queer Me Out initiative – a series of talks featuring leaders in the LGBTQ community. Artists, chefs, performers, musicians, designers, activists – Levitt lets this fierce group of creatives shine, capturing their uniquely proud voices and looks to show the diversity, creativity, beauty and love we all want to see in the world.
See all the shots from Levitt’s campaign featured in OUT Magazine, and get real with the photographer about her creative inspiration, how she started behind the camera, and the three things you can’t attend PRIDE without.
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer? Do you have a first memory using a camera?
My aunt gave me a 110 camera, a Kodak, and I would carry it with me everywhere. Taking pictures of my friends modeling, it was fabulous! Later on I stole my mothers 35mm camera and that’s when things got real because you could change the lenses on it. I thought it was fancy!
What attracts you to a subject to want to take their portrait?
It’s an opportunity to meet people you would not otherwise have the chance to meet. It’s an opportunity to learn something by engaging them.
Who have you been most nervous to photograph in your career?
Grace Coddington. She is a style icon.
How do you make people comfortable when taking their picture?
I do a lot of chatting, so much chatting. Not all of my subjects are comfortable being shot so I like to do what it takes to break down the walls of uneasiness. I’m not afraid to bring a party to them and get personal. I’m the first one to turn up the music and dance, then dance more, and then dance even more if necessary.
What are the main influences in your work?
My work is driven by discovery.
What was your inspiration for the LoveTravels and Queer Me Out campaign? What did you hope to capture about this group of people?
It was all about capturing each subject’s individual identity and passion that they are so proud of. I’ve always celebrated the LGBTQ community, so it was important to make images that capture the pride and spirit of the people in this campaign, highlighting their strength and confidence.
A lot of your work focuses on communities we don’t often see in conventional fashion photography – youth culture, queer culture, diversity in age, color, and size. Why is it important for you to capture these different communities and celebrate difference through your work?
Because it is important, it is under-represented. It’s important to celebrate diversity and inspire others to feel comfortable with who they are.
Is there a song or a band you’ve been obsessed with recently?
Childish Gambino, Red Bone.
What’s your go-to cocktail?
The Hollywood – vodka seltzer just in case if you are wondering.
What are your plans for NYC PRIDE? Do you have any insider tips on how to celebrate?
I’m shooting a pride tv commercial. I get to create the most vibrant scene complex with incredible diversity!
What are three essentials for a perfect PRIDE?
An amazing LEWK ( I mean a girls gotta be fierce), good weather with a good position on a float, and booze.