You don’t have to be caught up in the NCAA college basketball championship to appreciate David Leventi’s images of basketball arenas. Leventi, a Brooklyn-based photographer, was assigned to shoot some of the country’s oldest college basketball courts last fall for ESPN the Magazine. His images, all shot in available light using a 4×5 camera, capture the architectural grandeur of basketball courts built before 1940, including those at Butler, Fordham, University of Pennsylvania and Yale.
“The idea was to show them as cathedrals of basketball,” he explains. He had two to three hours in each of the spaces to wait until the light was just right, and also to figure out the best place to position his camera in order to get a dramatic photo. “The challenge is finding the one emblematic shot that says it all compositionally as well as on an emotional level.”
Leventi has recently been getting assignments from The New York Times Magazine, Esquire and other clients to shoot grand interiors, including the refurbished TWA terminal in New York’s JFK airport, thanks to his series of images of great opera houses in Europe, which he exhibited last year in Toronto.
Leventi, who also shoots landscapes and less splendid interiors, says his very personal project on opera houses was inspired as much by his grandfather, Anton Gutman, as by his interest in architecture. Gutman’s singing career was thwarted, Leventi explains. “He was a cantor who was interned in a Soviet prisoner-of-war camp from 1942-1948. The Danish operatic tenor Helge Rosvaenge, also a prisoner, heard my grandfather sing an aria from Tosca and gave him lessons. I grew up listening to him sing in our living room,” says Leventi, who ended up photographing the great stages on which his grandfather never got to sing.
More of Leventi’s architectural work can be found on his blog, davidleventi.wordpress.com.