Conversation with: Ira Levy

Ira Levy

Today’s interview is with Ira Levy, founder of Levy Lighting. Ira has worked with me on many past events, infusing my designs with his brilliant lighting sensibilities and creative touch. We talked about different lighting techniques, how to stay innovative in the industry, lighting trends for 2010 and so much more. Plus, don’t miss the video at the end where he shares what special surprises he has in store for the Celebrations book launch party.

PB: Can you tell my readers what it means to be a lighting designer and how you started your business?

Ira: I was in school and saw the Pretenders in our gym. I was completely blown away by the fact that this whole show was produced by students. The next day I joined the concert committee and got involved with producing the shows. That means when I was 19 I worked with U2, Eddie Murphy, Santana…all these groups, and I always took a liking to the lighting part of it.

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We started a nightclub on campus and I continued with that after college and worked with nightclubs in general. From working with techno nightclubs, I became involved in the rave scene. One of the first rave parties I did in New York, actually, was at the Armory at 26th and Lexington! It was before Marc Jacobs, before VH1, before anybody did a party there. We were there. It’s funny to be coming back full circle.

PB: Oh, that’s such a great coincidence. Tell me more.

Ira: When I decided to go out on my own, I started in fashion. I did something for Donna Karan where she wanted water in her new apartment (because she does meditation) so I installed a water projection for her. From there, I started working with Calvin Klein and all these different companies.

My sensibility from a lighting point of view came from fashion, which is about clean lines, meticulous installations and a really professional approach. I wasn’t involved with social events at first, and for years people would say to me, “You know who would be a perfect fit for you? Preston Bailey.”

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PB: Can you tell me more about staying on the cutting edge of lighting innovation?

Ira: I’m really married to technology. I think that especially with light, it’s such an important thing. It’s a mysterious art form and technology is an important aspect of what I do.

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I like to be very forward thinking in what I do, for creative stimulation and from a competitive standpoint.  I think that a lot of people, especially in this social market, are stuck in a low-tech world, but I think there’s a way to use technology without it feeling “high-tech” and cold.

Let’s talk about lighting technology like cell phones. Every year they get smaller and lighter, and with lighting it’s the same thing. Now, we’re able to illuminate things brighter, cleaner and sharper but with a smaller fixture.

PB: What are some lighting trends for 2010?

Ira: Well, projection is getting to a point where it’s becoming much more user-friendly so we’re able to use projection as different types of light and backgrounds for different things. So, rather than having to constantly use fabric and material like that, you can now utilize light as actual projected elements.

There’s also interactive technology where people are now becoming part of the event. Rather than just walking in, people will enter a space and be able to play with something. Right away it sets a mood and tone for the personality of the event.

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PB: What’s your favorite part of doing lighting design?

Ira: My favorite part is when you first walk into a space and you really visualize how you can transform it. For example, the first day of set up–I enjoy seeing the equipment, the trucks, the people… These jobs are on such a large scale, we spend a week or two working on them so we get to know each other, bond and become a family.

For the last question, Ira sent me a video clip of his plans for my book party and what he has in store for the guests. Click play below to find out what sort of lighting surprises guests can expect at the Celebrations book launch.

If you’d like to contact Ira or need more info from him, feel free to email:

Can you tell me about a party you attended where the lighting really impressed you?

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