Gerri Levine, who has made her home in Payson since 2004, recently has seen the efforts of her lifelong love of photography rewarded with publication in both Arizona Highways and National Wildlife, the official periodical of the National Wildlife Federation.
She entered Highways’ first photo contest in 2009 and was one of its 40 finalists, but didn’t get her work published. This year, she took third place in the “People” category with a piece she calls Poetry in Motion featuring a Native American dancer. It was published in the magazine’s September issue.
She entered the 2010 National Wildlife Federation photography contest and won first place in the “Backyard Habitat” category with a piece featuring three hummingbirds at a feeder. Levine said the contest had 50,000 entries. The photo appears in the December-January edition of the Federation’s magazine and can also be found at the NWF online magazine Photozone.
She said growing up in 1950s Phoenix, the monthly arrival of Arizona Highways made an indelible mark.
“It was my window to all the glories of the Grand Canyon State. Every month I was able to visit Navajo country or Tonto Bridge or Tombstone or the Petrified Forest. More importantly, it established my aesthetic standard — a beautiful photograph is one capable of being featured in Highways’ pages.”
In spite of the honors, and those accumulated through years of participating in fairs, along with the self-publication of two books of her photos, Levine doesn’t consider herself a professional.
While Levine has always loved photography, she only began seriously pursuing it after retiring as a research biologist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she worked for 35 years. She attributes this more serious pursuit to the encouragement of mentors she met through a photo club she joined after coming to the Rim Country. The members included Ed Tolliver, who was the staff photographer for Salt River Project; Nick Berezenko, a former staff photographer with Arizona Highways; Steve Bingham, a former college professor of photographer; and others.
The credit for getting her to enter her work in top flight contests such as that offered by the National Wildlife Federation rests with her good friend, Linda Nannizzi, another gifted artist she has met since coming to the Rim Country.
“She pestered me for two years to enter and mostly I did it to stop her from bugging me,” Levine said.
Since she doesn’t consider herself a professional, she still takes advantage of workshops with photographers whose work she admires and the best she can find. It is something she recommends other aspiring and amateurs do as well.
Another tip she offers is to pay attention to what is around you when you are shooting — there might be a better shot behind you.
Her two books, “Hotel Saguaro” and “Hotel Hummingbird,” published through blurb.com, both focus on birds. But Levine said she will photograph almost anything.
“Many of my best shots are ‘catch the moment’ human interest photos of people and animals. I like shooting wildlife, but only with a camera.”
She believes that the more you shoot and the more you look at photographs, paying special attention to things you like about them, the more you will improve your photographic skills.
In addition to her photography, Levine is vice president of the Payson Rimstones Rock Club and sits on the town’s parks and recreation board.
Her work is on display and for sale at Artists of the Rim Gallery, 408 W. Main St., and includes cards and both matted and framed prints.
The prints are made with archival ink and paper and in acid-free mats. Her books can also be ordered through the gallery. She was the guest artist in October and recently became a member of the gallery’s cooperative.
Find her work at www. galevinephotos.wordpress.com; www.flickr.com/photos/phxgal and her books at www.blurb .com/user/galevine.