Hunter Levinsohn


About | Slideshow | Statements | Catalogue | Memories

What remains after we die? For most of us, there are possessions, many or few, that are dispersed or thrown away; friends, false or true, who go their way and remember us or don't; family, who know us best, but whose memories also fade over time. But a few of us, a very few, leave evidence of our talent, our art, expressions of our souls, that takes on its own life, and shows the world what was best about us.

So it was with our brother, Benjamin Dudley Culp, who, after suffering with depression for many years, ended his life in 1979. But today, we can look at his photographs, which are full of life and action and humor, and we can see his bright and open soul. And this is how we can best remember him.

Now I understand
What you tried to say to me...
I would not listen, I did not know now
Perhaps I'll listen now."
lines from "Vincent" by Don McLean

F. Bartow Culp, April 2016

Benjamin was born Thursday, September 30, 1948. I was fourteen and a half months old, so I don't remember life without him. He was always my playmate. A funny, loving companion of my early childhood into adolescence, and even college. I feel that he approached all of his relationships with an open devotion; and indeed, he had many friends throughout his life who can attest to this. My nephew Jacob reminds me of how easily Benjamin made friends and forged longlasting bonds with them.

One of my favorite stories of Benjamin happened during his senior year of high school. A young man, a little older than Benjamin, named Walter started appearing regularly at 69 King. It seems Walter was in the Navy stationed in Charleston and Benjamin had met him "who knows where" and befriended him. Finally, our mother asked Benjamin who Walter was. His reply, "Mom, he followed me home. Can I keep him? And so, we did!

Benjamin was passionate about his photographic work, too. He seemed to reach out to each subject, whether animate or inanimate. With many of the people he photographed it was necessary to take the time to put them at ease in front of his lens. Most of the photographs of his that I recall are more contemplative in their approach. Even the ones of buildings seem to offer more than just a two dimensional image. A photograph he took of a house on the east side of Archdale Street demonstrates this patient approach to his subject. It seems to be of a person passing in front of a window of the house; but, it is actually the shadow of the top of a column on the west side of the street. He had waited till the setting sun had cast this shadow.

Benjamin's was a life too short. And yet, I am so thankful for all of the memories I have of him and for the part of his work that remains.

Dunlap Culp Silver, April 2016
Bennie Culp, My Brother

For the past 37 years every morning when I make up our bed I stand in the spot where I answered my mother's call telling me that Bennie had died. And I greet Bennie and my mother. (My greeting to my father is directed out of the window into the world of nature he loved so dearly.) Over the years the pain has softened. Since January when Susi and I started working on the show of Bennie's photographs, the conversation has been different.

As I look through the pictures for the show and go through the letters and papers and the ephemera of a life too short, I find things that I never saw before or have forgotten about. There are the notes Bennie made about a series of pictures of houses being demolished to make way for new buildings and an old picture of the vibrant, intelligent and funny person my younger person was that have helped me replace the pervasive shadow of his illness. It makes me happy to be able to bring my younger brother into the present and, even more to project him into the future.

Hunter Culp Levinshon, 21 May 2016

My Thanks

There have been many hands reaching out to help with this project and there are many thanks to give: to the members of the Hillsborough Artist Cooperative who have welcomed us to the Skylight Gallery once again! To Kristin Ann Nordgren of the Makery in Durham, who helped us with the technical aspects of the catalog, to Jackie Helvey of UniquecOrn Enterprises who helped us get some of the photographs into a proper size to scan for the catalog, to Jo Anna TourenCenter who came all the way from Paris to be a part of this, to Artie Axelbank and Jay Levinsohn for their support throughout the project, to all who have come to the show, especially to Bennie's friends, to my siblings, Bartow Culp and Dunlap Silver who have been supportive in every way throughout the process!

A special thank you to Wojtek Wojdynski, master printer who took the negatives I've had for 37 years and produced beautiful photographs. Not only is Wojtek masterful, he is also a kind and wonderful teacher. We owe much to his knowledge of the processes involved and his keen eye for beauty.

To my cocurator

Susi Lieff who made this all possible when she said to me last fall that this show needed to happen and then said “And I will help you.” I do not think either of us understood how much time and love would be folded into this project or how involved we would be beyond photographs, catalog, histories and statements.

Susi, there is no way to say thank you enough. Your friendship is a true blessing.

It is a joy to be here with all of you at this time and in this place.

Hunter Culp Levinsohn,21 May 2016


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