Leon Levinstein was born in 1910 in Buckhannon, West Virginia.
He attended high school at Baltimore City College (1923-1927), and college at Maryland Institute of Arts, Baltimore (1927-1928).
Levinstein remained in Baltimore until he enlisted in the army (1942), serving mostly in Panama, as a mechanic. Shortly after his discharge from the army (October 1945) he moved to New York City. There he studied with Stuart Davis and Alexey Brodovitch at the New School for Social Research (1948-1951), and with John Ebstel and sid Grossman at the Photo League (1947-1948).
Leon continued to study with Grossman at Sid's apartment for the next three years. Levinstein had a solo exhibition at Helen Gee's Limelight Gallery in 1956. In the 1950s, he was extensively published in major magazines such as Popular Photography and the U.S. Camera Annual, and won Popular Photography's International Photography Contest (1952).
Levinstein was included in nine Museum of Modern Art group shows and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975. Publications of Levinstein's works include The Moment of Exposure : Leon Levinstein (National Gallery of Canada, 1995), and Leon Levinstein : Obsession (Editions Leo Scheer, 2000). Leon Levinstein died in 1998 in New York City.