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Duran Levinson: "I'm inspired by the chaos and madness of Berlin"

By: Amanda Sandström Beijer

Photos: Duran Levinson

This photographer is driven by a ’loser’/ underdog attitude'. With an open heart he’s living for the experiences of life. Not giving a damn about photographing beautiful people and showing a side of the world that is only attainable for the young, rich and beautiful.

This is Duran Levinson's words, an unfiltered journey of how he became an artist who’s searching for the life he wants for himself, something that’s been ’nothing short of hell’, but with some pretty happy times in between.

From Cape Town to Berlin – how were your impressions of the city?

I was born in South-Africa and spent the first 18 years of my life in various parts of the country. As soon as I finished high-school I had this deep urge to see whatever parts of the world I could and figure out what the hell was going on out there.

I ended up living in London at 19, learning about things the hard way and realizing from a young age that life is about experiences. Since then, I have somehow managed to travel and live in various countries doing what I love all over Asia, Africa and Europe. I was first introduced to Berlin in 2016, when I was touring with a rock band, we spent a few days in Berlin, and I fell in love. I ended up going back to Asia where I was living at the time, quitting my job, leaving half of my stuff behind and figuring out how to get a tourist visa. A few years passed and I ended up moving to Berlin for a girl. We broke up the first week after I arrived, but I decided to dive headfirst into the city and make it work.

What was your first impression of Berlin, and what made you decide to move here?

It was the music and art scene that initially made me fall in love with Berlin. Just getting a chance to see the musicians I grew up worshiping, performing in Berlin. All the bands that are touring through Berlin was enough for me to take the chance and move here.

I grew up in small town in South-Africa and it can feel extremely frustrating watching your life and your friend’s lives pass by with very little change or chances of greatness. I know from traveling and living overseas in my 20’s that life is full of beauty and opportunity and throwing yourself into new situations can be the most rewarding experience. If I were to explain to someone why I moved to Berlin I would say: Photography, Punk Rock, Flea Markets, Girls, Art and Vegan Food.

How did your photography journey start and what made you continue with it?

I started out focusing on filmmaking and was working in the film industry since my teenage years. I originally studied Cinematography and wished to be a Director of Photography one day. I worked on a bunch of Hollywood movies from Black Panther to Resident Evil as an assistant and was trying to find my way in the hierarchy that is the industry ladder. I eventually joined a VFX team for a few years, focusing on postproduction, and my main job was on-set photography.

I realized that I had so much passion for photography and analogue photography in particular. So once again, I left my job, and moved to China to focus on my photography career. This was an extremely stressful time.

I ended up in various other fields, mainly making social media content for different brands and touring with rock bands to pay the bills and to pay for all my film expenses. I spent many years just self-funding my career and trying my best to not give up.

Today I do film photography more as a hobby and try not to take it too seriously. I am the type of person who’s working hard, but still think I’m not good enough or don’t deserve the opportunities I have been given. I feel like the typical “loser / underdog” attitude pushes me today to just not give a fuck anymore, and go as hard as I can, into the fields that interest me.

What has your creative journey looked like? Is there something that inspired you once you got started with photography, that still drives you today within your art? I come from a pretty poor family background, but I have also been aware of my privilege in South-Africa since I was a child. I never felt like I fitted in, in my hometown. Although I am lucky that I was still able to have a supporting family. My journey to become an artist and live the life I want for myself, has been nothing short of hell. I’ve lost friends and family along the way, but I realized a few years ago how short life is, and I will be spending my time focusing on the good experiences.

I am inspired by underdogs and the underbelly of society. I couldn’t give a damn about photographing beautiful people and showing a side of the world that is only attainable for the young, rich and beautiful. I want to capture reality and the darker parts of society. I shoot a lot of my friends, people I meet in the street, and I find that I am more inspired when talking to someone, or shooting the photos, than editing them or sharing them.

I don’t feel like I am the best photographer at all, but I have support from many people, therefor I’ve realized that I must take it seriously and try to create bodies of work that I am proud of. In Berlin I am inspired by the chaos and madness of the city. My favourite genre of photography is ‘street-photography’, and Berlin is just a wild place for this topic. Every day you just need to walk outside to experience it, the city always feels like there is so much going on and I love living in between the rubble and chaos, which fits my current mental state quite well.