by Irith Gubi

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are your memories of your first shots?

Sasha Tamarin (ST): I bought my first camera, when I was in high school. It was a small point-and-shoot digital canon. In those days, I was kind of a computer geek. I preferred to stay in a dark room lit only by my many computer screens. I still don’t know why I quickly became obsessed with taking photos of everything (flowers, sunsets, cats etc.). My new found hobby dragged me out of my comfort zone and pushed me into completely new territories. I think that photography has changed my general approach to life, helped to develop my sense of curiosity, intuition and appreciation for taking risky and at times, non-conformal decisions.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color'

How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

Sasha Tamarin (ST): Since this time, my relationship with photography has changed many times, especially since being exposed to the academic setting. I feel that today, with all of the knowledge and tools that I’ve gained along the way, I’m photographing from a more authentic, slightly childish, and almost naive perspective. Usually, I dive into projects unaware of my underlying motives. Only later, comes a point where I am able to tie all the edges together on the axes of my personal history and conceptual ideas. It’s at this point that I’m able to have a more analytical view on my work. These illuminations teach me a lot about myself and about my work, and for me, they are the peak of my creative process.

Tell us about your educational path. You have graduated from the Photography communications department of Hadassah College, Jerusalem. What are your best memories of your studies? What was your relationship with photography at that time?

ST: Before I started my studies in Hadassah college, my friend Sasha P. and I were experimenting with fashion photography and taught ourselves how to work with studio equipment and strobe lights. During my first semester, I must admit, I was quite narrow-minded, overly confident, and skeptical regarding the benefit I could gain from a formal education. However, it was not long before I realized that I had been swimming in a very shallow pool. There were many things the internet tutorials and forums could not teach me, but which required input from inspiring professors and classmates providing honest and constructive criticism. After some time, I became more interested in an artistic approach, while maintaining my appreciation for the technical aspects.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color'

ST: In our school we had a wide selection of courses and facilities, including dark rooms (R.I.P.), high end printing facilities, and fully equipped studios. One of my courses that influenced me the most was taught by Sara Filler, during which, every student worked on their own project that was to be presented both in a book format, as well as in a physical exhibition. I remember when Sara brought different photography books to every single lesson, in order to raise inspiration for different uses of the book as an autonomous medium. As a result, I developed a sensitivity to factors such as paper type, margins, image order, text-photo combinations etc. I was (and still am) fascinated by this format. I now see the artistic and curatorial opportunities that books have to offer and I admire the accessible, affordable and permanent nature of this medium, as compared to the gallery exhibit.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color' 

Any professor or teacher that has allowed you to better understand your work?

ST: I never ever, ever missed a chance to consult about my work with different teachers and students (teachers pet?). Without having decided upon a subject for my final project, I ventured off to Russia for two weeks, and returned with a mass of photographs that I took in various national museums. They were mostly photographs of rocks from expositions from the Museum of Space. I didn’t have a real appreciation for the photos and couldn’t connect them to anything until I showed them to Etty Schwartz, one of my teachers. Etty helped me to draw a line within this eclectic collection and to connect them to my previous work, historical facts and even my personality. That was probably the most sensitive and enlightening feedback that I have received to this day.

What do you think about photography in the era of digital and social networking?

ST:The combination of social networking and cellphone cameras has made it very easy to share personal experiences in the form of visual images. As a result, we are exposed (some people will say “flooded”) by mass
amounts of visual information of all kinds. Such an abundance decreases our sensitivity by heightening our emotional and visual bars; we become highly selective of what it is we pay our attention for. I feel this benefits artistic photography and demands that the artists leave the box, blur the edges, and truly explore the role of their medium.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color' 

About your work now, how would you describe your personal research in general?  

ST: I immigrated to Israel from Russia when I was 8 years old. If I look back at my work, most of it deals with my identity and my belongingness to land and culture. I think that most of my life, I was rejecting Israeli culture, weather, nature and behaviors. I was longing for my me mories of Russia. The forests, the soft light, the smell of the black soil were part of the nostalgia I held for that place. Since last year, I feel that my romantic feelings towards Russia have began to evaporate, and my approach to art has become more cynical
and humorous. I have come to terms with the fact that I am stuck between two homelands, and accept this now as an advantage. 

Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras and format?

ST: I like to experiment with different cameras, and formats. Both film and digital. Yesterday, I received a spy camera hidden in a pen, just like in the James Bond movies. For my recent work, I utilize a simple point-and-shoot and a DSLR with an on-camera flash that helps to pop the plastic qualities and the vivid colors out from my subjects. I don’t like to take photos with my smartphone, because its’ camera sucks.

Tell us about your latest project ‘Israel in color’... 

ST: In my recent and ongoing project “Israel in color”, I am observing Israel from a naive perspective, with a lightness that is essentially void of our contemporary troubles, and instead, is charged with my fascination for tropical nature and the entire kaleidoscope of human behavior. I stroll the suburban cities of Tel-Aviv, observing landscape architecture, social fashion, attributes of domestic life, and typological elements. My latest photographs are often identified with a celebration of shapes and colors, which ask to glorify the beauty in
“Kitsch” culture and question the definition of “Bad Taste”.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color' 

Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, that influenced you in some way? 

ST: Definitely. Hiroshi Takizawa inspired me to photograph all these rocks and to self-published a book composed of my project, “When the earth rises”. David Adika and Martin Paar are always with me when I’m in the suburbs photographing exotic plants or people.

© Sasha Tamarin from the series 'Israel in Color' 

Three books of photography that you recommend?

ST: ‘Strange Paradise’ by Charlie Rubin; ‘Vulkan oder Stein’ by Anne Schwalbe; ‘Belleza de barrio’ by Ricardo Cases.

Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

ST: ‘HOBBY’, Solo Exhibition at Raw-Art Gallery / Ishai Shapira Kalter

Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?

ST: I am keeping busy with “Israel in color”, maintaining my routine of strolling in the Israeli suburbs during the golden hour. I want to begin combining sculptures and objects into this project and maybe develop some sideprojects in parallel to the main practice. For example, I’ve bought and painted an old post card stand, but I’m still not sure what to do with it. In general I’m planning to start exhibiting my current work somewhere by the end of the next fall, and I’m currently looking for space, curators and other artists who may be interested in cooperating with me in a duet show.


Sasha Tamarin