Art exhibits, high fashion shoots, collaborations with some stellar magazines, photograph upon photograph of talent–Tamar Levine is just one of those people who cannot be stopped. Her work spans many years, having earned herself a BFA with honors from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She has photographed for some high profile clients (ABC, Warner Bros Records, and Reebok, just to name a few), and has won award after award for her stunning work. Polite, with the voice of–I kid you not–an angel, she is just the sweetest human who communicates quite palpable energy. I was able to snag a moment on the phone with her while she stepped away from a brainstorming session she was having at a coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard. (Yes, I’m painting that picture for you.)
It’s been two years since I interviewed Tamar for the first time, and so much has changed in her life. Her art is an inspiration to me, and her personality is hard to match. So sit back, relax, and enjoy a moment with Tamar.
Tamar Levine: I’ve been doing so much writing lately that the thought of writing down answers for the interview rather than talking is a bit overwhelming! So anyway, thank you for taking the time to speak with me today! I’m taking a break from coming up with concepts to pitch for a few different video projects.
MOSHERY: Oh my gosh. We love your work and are constantly Insta-stalking you, so it was our pleasure! Where are you office-ing out of during your brainstorming session?
Tamar: Dinosaur Coffee in Silverlake. I love this place!
M: …And we love caffeine. What are your go-to menu items?
Tamar: I normally get a regular coffee in the morning and an almond cappuccino in the afternoon.
M: That sounds SO good. Alright, let’s get started here. You have spoken previously about being inspired by pop culture; films, vintage commercials, and other artwork. What’s on your radar right now?
Tamar: Hmmm well honestly it totally depends on the day. Just in the past week, David Bowie has been on my radar, for obvious reasons. So yeah I’ve just been spending the last week listening to a ton of Bowie, including ‘Blackstar‘ which I LOVE, and getting inspired by his whole discography again and revisiting some of his movies, such as The Man Who Fell to Earth. I’m always rewatching old films for inspiration. Beyond that, actual real life experiences have always been my biggest inspiration, and since my life has changed so drastically the past couple years that has had a huge impact on my work.
M: Understandable. What’s the best movie you’ve seen recently?
Tamar: Charlie Kaufman’s new movie, Anomalisa. I just saw it a few days ago and I absolutely love it. It’s very well-written, very poignant, and extremely human, even though it’s portrayed by puppets.
M: Who is your favorite artist?
Tamar: Ahhh so many favorites and so many genres! Hmm actors… LOVE Lucille Ball, I love Charlie Chaplin. As far as filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick, Jane Campion, and Samuel Fuller are a few of my favorites. In other genres, Edourard Manet, Kansuke Yamamoto, Marina Abramović. She’s doing a lot of unique things that make you think and she’s pushing a lot of boundaries. The list could go on and on.
M: Now that you say that, I can see how their work has inspired some of your pieces. That’s really cool. Now, last time we spoke, we were highlighting your 2 year long 11:11 project. Do you have any thoughts on it now, a couple of years removed from it?
Tamar: Well, I am frequently still looking at the clock at 11:11. Other than that, I really like working within rules and I think the reason I was drawn to that particular project was because it was a really structured way I could take a photo every single day within specific guidelines. Creating rules for any project helps me focus, and I think guides my style.
After I finished my 11:11 project, I haven’t done any more instagram projects. I like to experiment with different iPhone apps. For awhile I was putting all my photos in circles because I liked the idea of working outside the square frame. I stopped doing that when they started allowing for vertical and horizontal photos.
M: Your editorial work has been featured in many publications, ranging from Nylon to Runway and YRB Magazine. What would you say has been your favorite publication to work with or piece to work on?
Tamar: I haven’t been doing very much editorial lately. There are things that I like for different reasons. I work with UCLA magazine a lot and I just did a story for them where I went around and I photographed different plants that grow around campus. I really loved it because it was so different from what I normally do. There was no lighting or assistant, just me and my client who I absolutely love working with. It was a refreshing and fun shoot and I loved the results from it. That was fun.
As for some of my older editorial work, I did a shoot called “Kiri Kiri Kiri” for Kurv Magazine awhile back… What was great about working with them was that I was allowed to have some creative freedom, and I was able to show nipple in that editorial, haha. I think this is because they’re not based in America. I really love it when I can be as expressive as I want to be.
M: LOVED those shots. Big fan. AND THE AWARDS YOU’VE WON. Do you remember any personal anecdotes about what was going on in your life when you won any of those?
Tamar: Hmmm…The Vogue contest was really cool because they flew me out to New York and that was the first time I was flown out for an award so that was really fun. What was really awesome was after the finalists were selected, they loaned us all a RED camera to do a photo shoot with. We only had around 3 weeks to do it which was a fun challenge as I had never worked with that particular camera before. It was an interesting process because it’s a video camera, so I had use hot lights instead of strobes, and extract a still from a sequence of frames to retouch. They then displayed the RED photos at a gallery in New York.
M: I never would have thought to shoot photography with a RED. You and your (now ex) husband have always done a lot of quality work together. Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?
Tamar: We’ve been separated for about a year and a half now. We are still amicable and we have actually been working together as well. Right now we are actually working on the live visuals for the Puscifer tour. I was hired as Creative Director and he came on as Post Production Editor for the tour.
M: That’s awesome. (Fan girling over Puscifer, too!) Your photography has been featured at the Lois Lambert Gallery. How did that partnership come to be?
Tamar: That was a gallery show I did last year. With them, I had a personal connection with the owner, as she was my parents’ neighbor. They spoke and she showed interest in seeing my work. I’m not sure if she expected to like it or not, but she saw it and she really liked it. That was my ten year mark of being a photographer and so that was a fun way to show off a decade of my work. I did a few pieces specifically for that….some of the underwater pieces called “What A Life”.
M: OK. Onto completely unrelated stuff. What’s the most binge-worthy show you’ve seen lately?
Tamar: I haven’t been watching that much tv. Recently I binged on Nathan For You. I saw three seasons in like a week or something like that. I thought it was hilarious.
M: SUCH a good choice! Who would you let punch you directly in the face?
Tamar: I don’t think I would let ANYONE punch me in the face. I’m trying to think about this… is there anyone that I would let do that to me? I think I would get pretty pissed off if anyone punched me in the face. I think maybe I could see… I am wondering if I pissed anyone off. I don’t think I’ve really pissed anyone off. The only person I think I could actually see that happening with is maybe my brother. But that’s when we were like 8. Maybe my martial arts instructor, like, a few years ago.
M: Martial arts? What kind?
Tamar: I did Krav Maga. I had to stop because I tore my meniscus in my left knee. Recently I’ve gotten really into indoor rock climbing. I’m hoping to get into outdoor rock climbing as well.
M: Some days, that’s TOO much for us! Do you believe in magic?
Tamar: I believe that there are things in the world that have not been explained yet and there are things that happen in the universe that we cannot understand. We don’t know everything. I don’t know if I would categorize it as magic.
M: Wise words. I’m sure you’ll have wise words about this one as well. Do you think Zac Efron is really nice in real life or does he just walk around with his abs out telling people what to do?
Tamar: (laughing) I don’t know because I don’t think I’ve actually ever seen Zac Efron act in anything. I know what he looks like. I think he’s very good looking. He might be a bit young for me to know anything about him.
M: Fair enough. (He’s too young for us, too.) Alright. So let’s bring this back around. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?
Tamar: Hmmm one is that you need to keep creating as much work as possible. Get out there and experience things. Hone in on your sensitivity. Be aware of the world around you and keep soaking everything and figuring out your own unique point of view. Also continue challenging yourself. If you start feeling like you’re dialing it in then change what you’re doing so it’s not easy anymore. Create problems for yourself. If you want to do any art professionally, it needs to be an obsession. Making a living as an artist is not easy and the only way you will be successful is if you can’t think about doing anything else. To me, as long as you don’t quit, you’re successful.
To learn more about Tamar’s art and extended portfolio, head over to her website!