Tasya van Ree: Romantic. Dark. Intimate. And Lyrical

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Tasya van Ree has always been intrigued by the everyday wonders of the visual world. The sense of expansive awareness for van Ree is a prerequisite to photography. It enables her to capture the small everyday flashes of insight that come when we are open to them and often go before we can fully grasp or appreciate them. Her extraordinarily vivid images are also a testimony to her eye for form and composition. Her photographs are infused with romanticism, darkness, intimacy and a certain lyrical quality. They also capture the essence of the people, the landscape, and the intricacies of both the animate and inanimate worlds, and are a sort of meditation in seeing the powerful testaments between the relationship of human presence and transitory nature.

Van Ree’s works are both formally vigorous and eternally evocative. She has consistently produced a highly compelling body of work on varied subjects. Her photographs have been exhibited widely (in solo exhibitions as well as along side David Lynch, Jessica Lange, Gus van Sant and Amy Arbus), and are included in numerous private collections.

Music is probably one of the most inspirational tools that I use to create. Its so fluid. It opens me up to feel. You have to really listen to it to be able to break it down, but its there.

First camera:
A Polaroid camera when I was a kid. I still have a respect for Polaroid cameras—they capture moments like no other.

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Favorite camera:
My Leica Minilux—it's an extension of myself really. I never leave home without it.

Disappointing camera:
The Holga 120 CFN—I could never get into it for some reason.

Camera you’d recommend to beginners:
A disposable camera—you have to respect composition and spontaneity first—then you can move on to the more expensive stuff.

An “eccentric” camera you’ve been pleased with. What are its distinct attributes?
I bought a camera at a thrift store once and it had a cracked lens. I loved the photos that came from it. It was perfectly defective in the most perfect of ways. Love that.

How and why did you get your start? Any interesting anecdotes there?
Love inspired me to start shooting. I was in love with a beautiful woman who stimulated that part of me that needed to create. I needed to express this overwhelming emotion that could only be communicated through a photograph. It was both an imaginative and timeless point in my life.

Talk about the first instance when someone paid to publish one of your photos.
I did a shoot with a celebrity that a magazine saw and they wanted to publish it as the cover, they paid me and printed it. It felt inspiring that someone out there respected my work and wanted to exhibit it in that way. It was a big compliment.

What does still photography have over video/film? Contrariwise?
The singular movement of one scene can speak volumes. It’s the mind that moves when looking at it. The action of interpretation is wonderful. I like the juxtaposition of the stillness of the subject with the movement of the mind. There's a real connection there.

Are there any pieces of music out there which have moved you to create? Are there any musicians out there whose stuff is particularly visual to you?
Music is probably one of the most inspirational tools that I use to create. It's so fluid. It opens me up to feel. It has images built within it. You have to really listen to it to be able to break it down, but it's there. I like to use it to help me. To decode it to produce something else in another form. All music does this for me.

What sort of films/physical art are you drawn to and why?
There are so many different artists out there that inspire me. Too many to name. But anyone who is able to tell a story in an indirect way, I love. Those who are able to go outside of the minds of the masses to interpret life in a completely different way, really turns me on creatively.

On that same tip, can you point a finger, for pure entertainment, at one or some of your more outlandish uses of costume and/or make-up?
I have a lot of self-portraits that I've experimented with the unconventional usage of these things, but those are for personal use only. Perhaps one day when I'm long gone they will surface. Perhaps that will be my best body of work.

What happens in your mind when you read?
Imagination is such an important tool for an artist—when you read or see something it automatically translates into an image, which is then converted into a tangible piece of art. I think mental stimulation is always necessary.

If you had four hours and unlimited money in a city of your choice where would it be and what would you get up to?
If outer space had a city I would go there for sure. I would fly around in a spaceship and get into some sort of naughty extraterrestrial behavior.

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You knew you wanted to be a photographer when…
I saw a beautiful woman and I wanted to make that image last forever.

Any subjects turn out not to be what you perceived them to be?
I haven't had one of those yet. I've been impressed with everyone I ever shot. Probably because I've been able to choose my subjects.

Digital photography, friend or foe?
More like an acquaintance. Digital photography is something that I try to keep at a distance.

What percentage of your skills were you born with? How did you go about acquiring additional skills? Learning from others? Teaching the self?
It's all instinct. It's innate. I've used what I was born with and developed that with life experience. Also, having a real connection with people really helps you understand your art and yourself for that matter. The more you learn through this the more it shows up in your work. You just have to be present and know when it's happening and be open to it. Finding your independence and your true meaning, and understanding that you yourself are a piece of work at the same time.

Favor us with a moment in life that changed the course of, or defined, your aesthetic philosophy/position.
When I met this artist that shared my same vision, the same mind, imagination, artistic aesthetic. I've never met anyone else like this before. He is a great artist and perhaps my mentor in a lot of ways. He's inspired me to take a different perspective on how I perceive my art and how I create it. There's a trust there that is somewhat unexplainable. It's like trusting yourself. Having this person in my life has really helped me in finding the intricacies in my expression. Sometimes you need someone to help you recognize things about yourself that you had no idea existed.

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Take us from alpha to omega with a project. Are any specific environments, conditions, materials, etc. required?
I'm learning to get in tuned with my dreams. To dance with them and let them take control. To convey what it is that is deep inside of me. I've never done that before. It's such a process to listen and see and then interpret. You really have to be still and seclude yourself from all distractions. Find what it is that makes you feel death and at the same time makes you feel alive. What breaks your heart and what makes you fall in love. It's all there. In your dreams. The ability to dissect the unknown. It's really a remarkable process.

What’s the secret to your success? We will accept any secret if you have not yet found the former.
The freedom to think and act upon those thoughts.

What was your favorite toy as a child and when/why did you stop playing with it?
I liked matches—but I had to stop playing with them when I set my neighbors back yard caught on fire.

Describe a moment of what may or may not have been “paranoia” in your life. In the end, what was “true?”
A bad trip on hallucinogenics—in the end when the drugs wore off, reality set in and truth slowly followed. It was a trip!

Have you ever had a brush with the paranormal or supernatural?
I wouldn't say it was paranormal or supernatural, but when I was younger there would be this presence that would be there when my state of mind was lingering between sleep and being awake, it was unexplainable. It was this presence that was both frightening and calming at the same time. Perhaps it was just the presence of my imagination playing tricks on me.

What’s the most disturbing event you’ve bore witness to?
Animal cruelty.

Talk about the most hectic conflict that you’ve been involved in. What position on the heap did you occupy in at the end?
Self-conflict. The battle between yourself and your other self can be the most hectic struggle there is in life. There is no end to it.

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Do you think there are any commonly held societal beliefs that are false?
I think everyone should be able to believe in what they want to. As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

How will you feel six months after your heart stops beating?
Probably dead.

What’s the hardest lesson you’ve ever learned?
To understand change. There's always a hesitation when change happens. But you have to remember that it's only temporary, and what follows it is always brand new, and always reveals something better than what once was. Life is always evolving; change is always the transitional points from one moment to the next.

Does character invent style or does your style invent character?
I think a connection to yourself and to the world around you builds style and character. Those who are in tune with themselves seem to reflect this in such a unique and inspiring way.

Do you have a pet?
In this world I have a little black dog named Kiki—he's the love of my life. In my ideal world, I'd want an albino wolf. I love how savage and instinctual they are from the inside, but from the outside they look pure and heavenly.